Friday, October 19, 2012

Homecoming festivities integrate Twitter, Instagram to appeal to tech-savvy students

Central Michigan University sophomore Mackenzie Guest takes a photo of her Larzelere Hall teammates doing a pose from the photo checklist during the Gold Rush scavenger hunt on Tuesday evening. The photos were sent via Instagram for scoring.

Central Michigan University sophomore Mackenzie Guest, left, and freshman Natalie Scalabrino, right, anxiously
browse the list of things to photograph Oct. 16 during the 60-minute Gold Rush event. Photos were sent via
Instagram for scoring by the event coordinators.
As much as other industries that have looked to try the internet and its immediacy for delivering information, so has the operating of homecoming activities and events.

At Central Michigan University, the shift towards internet-based activity has not only become prevalent, but also essential to appeal to a generation of students affixed to absorbing information held online.

As C.M.U.'s homecoming week got underway this week, numerous events have been exacerbated by the services of instant information communications. During these events, like the well-known C.M.U. gold medallion hunt, a need has developed among competitors to communicate on an immediate basis to try and gain an edge over opponents.

Gold Rush event coordinator Will Damian, left, checks for incoming Instagram photos from the Gold Rush scavenger
hunt with Megan Ellinger, center, and Kelly Wright.
Meredith Vedder, center, waits for the final photo of the hour-long competition with her teammates.
The internet has also become a forum with which events have been run. In the first-ever 'Gold Rush' event at C.M.U., the structure of the game was to work on a checklist that gave clues about where teams had to go to take certain photos, which were sent via Instagram, the photo-sharing social media platform.

"I had a lot of people come up to me and say that this was one of the best homecoming events they had ever gone to," said Will Damian, a C.M.U. senior and event coordinator for Gold Rush. "It just warmed my heart. I'm really happy with it and I think a lot of other people are, too."

Integrating social media and the internet has been an ongoing effort by C.M.U. to make events appealing to students. Damon Brown, assistant director for the Office of Student Life, said the medallion hunt has been integrated with the internet for several years. The hunt is a clue-fed scavenger hunt for a medallion that results in points for the C.M.U. homecoming Maroon Cup. The goal of the homecoming activities is to connect students with each other and to the university.

"It's creative. We're trying to find new ways of doing things," Mr. Brown said. "Social media – everyone's using it – so it's a great way to connect and allow them to be a part of the homecoming event in an avenue that they're used to using."

It is a national movement towards disseminating homecoming on the web. The University of Delaware notified its students and alumni that they can use a "#UDHC" hashtag on Twitter for sharing their experiences during homecoming week. The Gold Rush event is an example of a rejuvenated attempt at connecting to a college generation that predominantly uses social media more so than others. 

"Will just kind-of came up with a good idea with Instagram and with locations and being able to use that as a means of having people spread out and not still being able to track everything that they were sending in," said Julia Moerman, program associate for the C.M.U. Office of Student Life.

Ms. Moerman said one of the objectives of aiming for students on social media was to increase attendance for the events, which has so far been successful. During the medallion hunt, groups of students from different residence halls gather their laptops and set up a headquarters in the residence hall lobby while others go out with cell phones or walkie-talkies and wait for instruction as the headquarters attempts to solve the clues about the medallion's location. Mr. Brown has made an effort to send the clues via Twitter as well as on the Office of Student Life website.

"That's the part that we like about it is the fact it gets people connected, and that's really what we're trying to do is connect students to each other, to offices, to services and more importantly, connect them to C.M.U. If we get them connected, they're probably going to stay here," Mr. Brown said. "At the end of the day, that's what we're really hoping is they come here, get connected, participate and graduate."
   Will Damian, center, tallies the final scores after the Instagram-based Gold Rush scavenger hunt at C.M.U.

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