The University of Michigan is committed to ensuring that everyone feels welcome on campus. Contributing to that vibrant climate of inclusiveness and belonging, UMSocial and Public Engagement & Impact continued to enhance the ways we represent our campus communities in 2022. 


For many years, UMSocial has been a leader in ensuring that all the people in our community are depicted in our content. And building on that foundation to ensure inclusion holistically from concept through implementation is a vital component of our strategy. Adding alt text to images, graphics, and GIFs shared on social media, on our websites, in our newsletters, and in other digital properties; adding closed captioning to all videos; ensuring PDFs are accessible; and shortening links in social media posts are all standards followed by UMSocial to ensure that content is accessible to all. Through leadership and guidance to faculty and students, campus organizations, and other social media teams across U-M, we have elevated the understanding of these as requirements through numerous presentations and consultations. We are committed to leveraging all available functionalities and resources to ensure our content can be accessed by everyone and that everyone feels included in the representation. 


By building off previous collaborations and establishing new partnerships, we were able to further develop the strategic approach to the content shared with the institution’s millions of followers to include more accessible language, imagery, and information. Ensuring accurate and respectful representation of Wolverines is something UMSocial and Public Engagement strive to achieve with every facet of our strategic communications. 


How we communicate, and how we lead communications, should always reflect every member of our community in ways that demonstrate the importance of unity, the impact of diversity, and the value of cultivating an inclusive culture. From highlighting anti-ableist efforts to honoring heritage months, from encouraging dialogues about mental health to featuring projects on disparate outcomes for underrepresented communities, UMSocial and Public Engagement amplified a diverse array of people and their experiences throughout 2022. Here are some of those efforts: 



To fulfill a dream

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2022 video features a modern read of the famous “I have a dream” speech. Featuring current students, a member of the Michigan Football team, executive leadership, and a future Wolverine, the award-winning video encapsulates the meaning of coming together to honor a legacy and achieve greatness in society. 



Advancing accessibility & anti-ableism 

The U-M Adaptive Sports & Fitness Program aims to enhance participation in adaptive sports and fitness, and increase awareness among people both with and without disabilities. By working with Adaptive Sports, we can further elevate information to potential participants. 


The Adaptive Sports program also participates in the annual Alex’s Great State Race, a collaborative effort between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, where the ROTC programs from each college run the game day football from East Lansing to Ann Arbor (or vice versa depending on where the game is being played) the day before the two teams meet. 


Explaining some of the many research and advocacy projects that faculty and students are conducting is helpful not only in increasing awareness but also in enhancing the overall understanding of disability. It’s important to highlight the work of those who are dedicated to centering those with disabilities, work that is integral to creating an inclusive campus.  



Kiley Adams believes that nature is something everyone should be able to enjoy. She designed a wheelchair made for nature trails that is now available for anyone to rent for free at three locations: Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, and Island Lake State Park in Brighton.





Crucial conversations 


Screenshot of an Instagram post that shows a man showing a child the Huron River at Gallup Park in Ann Arbor. The caption is a quote from Rachel Dawson of the U-M Women of Color Task Force. Uses hashtags to convey Father's Day and Juneteenth.Creating spaces for transparent dialogues about societal issues has continued to be an important aspect of communications strategies. From discussing how social systems are impacted by race and gender to exploring the depth of meaning in celebrating Juneteenth to learning about the concept of bounded justice, there were many crucial conversations in 2022.




Honoring heritage and history

Screenshot of a tweet from the University of Michigan that describes how members of a Michigan band of Pottawatomi Indians presented Eagle Staffs at a Michigan Football game and shows a screenshot of a video of the ceremony.Heritage and history months elevate awareness, inclusion, and unity throughout our diverse communities. Visual features on the @UofMichigan Instagram feed, podcast episodes with researchers who study heritage, and web banners promoting campus  events are all ways members of our campus communities and beyond can learn about and celebrate their heritage and history, contributing to a more inclusive society overall. 


Through the Michigan Impact newsletter, which is distributed to alumni, legislators, high school counselors, and other stakeholders in Michigan, UMSocial and Public Engagement has expanded the reach of numerous heritage month celebrations by including unique banners designed to honor each observation. 


Screenshots of four Instagram posts from the University of Michigan. They show posts for Black History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and Women's History Month.



Fostering pride

Screenshot of an Instagram Reel from the University of Michigan showing a button that says "Spectrum Center" for a Pride Month celebration post.UMSocial has celebrated Pride Month in numerous ways over the past several years, and 2022 brought another opportunity to innovate. Among the strategies employed: a dedicated photo representing myriad messages of pride on Instagram; numerous event promotion posts across all platforms, a podcast about how the LGBTQ+ community uses online spaces to navigate health care access (a topic discussed heavily here earlier this year). Continuing to amplify information, bring forth representation, and contribute to celebrations and memorials through strategic messaging is a commitment that remains integral to our strategic approach to social.



Connecting to educate

Screenshot of an Instagram Reel from the University of Michigan showing a U-M ROTC cadet in full uniform.Collaboration is one of the primary reasons for the success of UMSocial’s and Public Engagement’s strategies. By listening to our communities and identifying areas of concern for our audiences, we are able to partner with units and individuals across campus to provide educational, insightful, and topical content. There are many examples: In acknowledging the need for encouragement to celebrate responsibly on the Michigan vs. Michigan State football game weekend, UMSocial worked with Michigan State University to create a dynamic video representing both campuses. Through an ongoing partnership with the U-M ROTC, we identified the need to share more information about why ROTC members sometimes wear full uniforms, and inform our audiences that if they see a member in uniform they should say hello. Collaborations with the Office of the Vice President for Research are always ongoing, and oftentimes result in creative content such as the special podcast and video series featuring women in research across the university for International Day of Women and Girls in Science. 



Maintaining mental well-being 

Screenshot of an Instagram post from the University of Michigan showing a student wearing a Social Work sweatshirt. The caption is about mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month.Every day, our content is distributed to university students, faculty, and staff, as well as many other community members. Not only is promoting mental health and well-being services a critical element of our online conversations, structuring content in a way that creates spaces for these dialogues helps reduce the stigma of speaking about mental health. 





Raising awareness through research and outreach 

Often, content is created out of listening. On a college campus as large and diverse as ours, it’s sometimes necessary to talk about difficult topics, and to amplify work that is being done to help underrepresented communities. While we know our audiences well in the aggregate, it’s difficult to  know exactly who is reading what content, so we try to ensure that our conversations cover a wide vast array of societal challenges and advocacy efforts. 


By Erica Colaianne