Student Storytelling

by Kristen Abell

This past semester at my institution, our marketing and communications division embarked on a project about which I have to admit I’m really excited. We are telling the university’s story through the words of our students. How are we doing this? I thought I’d share a little about our digital storytelling process for others who might be interested in doing something similar.

We started by scheduling a four-hour block (which turned into a six-hour block by the end of the day) in our student union on campus in which to recruit students and have them tell their stories. Each student filled out a two-page questionnaire asking them such things as how college has inspired them, what they admire most about the institution, etc. After filling out the questionnaire, students were whisked into a makeshift photography studio with our professional photographer. While they were being photographed in a variety of poses (we even had one student do some breakdancing for us) against a white background, they were also interviewed by our staff to get a richer story about who they were. Once they completed this photography session, they then went onto our second photography session with one of our graphic designers. These photos were more casual with the campus as our backdrop so that we could use them with various social media. Finally, students shot some short videos telling us about themselves, where they hoped to go after our institution and what they loved about the campus.

But this was merely the first step in our process. After getting all the data, so to speak, we then had to process it. Pictures were selected and edited, interviews were crafted into stories, and videos were edited. We then began the process of sharing all of our great student stories with the world.

First, a student Q and A was posted on our university website with pictures. This then got shared on Twitter and Facebook. After that, we posted several images and quotes to a Tumblr site, as well as Vine videos and Instagram shots. We have been using the hashtag #UMKCGoingPlaces to designate these posts.

Overall, the response has been very positive, although we hope to have more engagement with our posts as we continue to build on them. We are actually headed out to do our second round of storytelling today on our second campus. We’ve changed a few things – we scheduled students ahead of time and had them fill out their questionnaires and email them back this time – less handwriting interpreting for us. But I have to admit, I’m really pleased with how this project has turned out, and I look forward to seeing more students as we continue to hold these storytelling sessions. Almost as importantly, the rest of the staff with whom I work is equally excited – this project has been lots of fun for all of us, and it has been a great reminder to us of why we’re here.

How are you telling your students’ story?

Student Storytelling