NEW ORLEANS —The new social media faces of the University of New Orleans, juniors Emily Srofe and Brandan Bonds, are spending the fall semester working with the school’s marketing department to launch a “Follow Me 2 UNO” campaign in an effort to increase enrollment.
Brett Kemker, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, said that the campaign is part of a larger effort toward a “concierge approach” that increases focus on making the logistical side of applying to and enrolling in classes at the university as welcoming and simple as possible.
“The only challenges students should have are in the classroom,” Kemker said.
Prospective students can get a “real life” feel for life on campus by following the pair on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day. Srofe described the campaign as a “living, breathing” brochure that younger students can better relate to and a way to show “an authentic day in a college student’s life.”
Whether tweeting about the beautiful fall weather on the lakefront, their latest sorority and fraternity activities, the outcome of a basketball game or what’s happening in the student government meetings (Srofe is the vice president and Bonds is the chief justice of the supreme court), all aspects of student life — in real time — are accessible online.
Bonds said the two, who were friends before they joined forces for the campaign, complement each other perfectly. Srofe said Bonds is more serious and informative, while she’s the one “making goofy noises in the background.” Bonds tends to use Twitter more often, while Srofe is prolific in posting photos on Facebook. Between the two of them, they say they are able to “scope out everything that is happening on campus” and avoid repetition.
The two are also available to prospective students and alumni for answering questions or directing them to the appropriate outlet.
With enrollment numbers just over 10,000, Kemker said that the university saw a slight decline in new students this fall (a loss of about 800 students between last year and this year) but that he expects to see the numbers to grow moving forward.
Kemker attributes the decline to a change in admission standards, which now requires students to have an ACT score of at least 23. About 300 or 400 students who enrolled last year would have not been admitted this year under the new requirements, Kemker said. Kemker also said another factor is a regionwide decrease in high school graduation rates, forecast to continue to decline until 2015.
Srofe and Bonds said the campaign also provides an opportunity to change misconceptions that people may have about campus life. Prospective students don’t realize how much there is to do on campus, they said.
While some perceive the university as a “commuter school” with a large number of older students, they said, there are numerous clubs and activities on campus and a vibrant atmosphere of student life that centers around younger students.
With a new generation of social-media-addicted youth, Bonds said you can’t go anywhere without seeing people fixated on their phones and laptops.
“People want to know what you are doing 24/7,” Bonds said, adding that his day ends with a Facebook check before bed.
Bonds also has a passion for politics and touts the role of social media in international activism and grass-roots uprisings. Setting his sights on the governor’s seat, Bonds will be happy to discuss the lack of prioritizing of higher education by the state and other issues he sees in need of change.
In addition, Bonds said UNO doesn’t get credit for the incredible diversity of its student body.
“There are so many different people from many cultures, many backgrounds and many walks of life — and we want to show people that,” Bonds said.
According to recent rankings published in U.S. News and World Report, UNO is the most diverse college in the state and ranks in the top 30 nationwide.
“Where else can someone from Hammond be in an environment where they have the opportunity to talk to people from Nepal and Ecuador?” Kemker asked.
Additional advertising efforts include billboards, television commercials and ads that run before movies in the theaters. Outreach efforts are also extensive, Kemker said, with a recruiting presence at local high schools and community colleges, nationally, as well as in Central America.
In terms of relying on social media for information as well as advertising, “It’s how it is now,” Srofe said, of the younger generation.
And while a walk across the lakefront campus gives evidence of a truly diverse student body, there is one thing nearly every single person has in common: A smartphone in hand.