Yesterday, I had the honor of moderating the first-ever Google Hangout with UC President Janet Napolitano and UC students. The hangout was recorded, so if you know people in the UC community who missed it, they can still watch. The students were incredibly articulate and well-spoken, and they shared important insights on issues ranging from the experiences and needs of veterans on campus to struggles faced by undocumented students. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from them, and I think college administrators everywhere could glean valuable perspective from what these students had to say.
A quick note on hangout context and logistics: The Google Hangout came out of responses to Napolitano’s tour of the UC campuses shortly after she took office. Students were asking for a way to have a more direct line of communication with her. The Communications department within the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) decided a Google Hangout could be one of the ways to foster such an ongoing dialogue. I work in Student Affairs at UCOP, not Communications, but my participation in a Social Media Workgroup at UCOP led colleagues of mine to approach me about moderating this first attempt, and I was excited to accept their offer. It was an interesting challenge, in that my role involved working to ensure that the on-screen hangout participants had an open, respectful and inclusive dialogue with one another, while I also incorporated comments and questions that were coming in via Google Hangout’s “Q & A” feature. As you might imagine, it was a tricky balance when it came to incorporating the web comments into the conversation while also trying to give the student panelists a chance to contribute equally to the discussion. I felt that many of the concerns being raised by the general online audience were ones the student panelists were also bringing up, so that made things a bit easier.
President Napolitano said in closing that she would like to engage in more of these types of online conversations, not just with students, but also with faculty and staff. As someone who has been both a faculty member and a staff member at a large public university, I’d be very interested in those conversations as well.