Reaching and Engaging Students in a College Town

Reaching and Engaging Students in a College Town

What I’m Reading: Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis (Author),‎ Michael Gaydos (Illustrator),‎ & Bill Sienkiewicz (Illustrator)

9 out of 10 times, I’ll be giving you a graphic novel or comic book, “what I’m reading.” This collection contains Alias 1-9 and helps you binge one of the best Marvel stories. Very similar to the Netflix show, “Jessica Jones,” this series follows the foul-mouthed private investigator through her struggles leading a normal life with superpowers, trouble always seems to find Jessica Jones. This comic book series has you on the edge with multiple twists and turns that keep you guessing throughout the whole story. If you’ve never read a comic book, start with Alias Vol. 1.

What I’m Listening To: Black Panther: The Album

This is by far one of the best music soundtracks I have ever heard. It perfectly captures the tones and messages from the movie, Black Panther. Kendrick Lamar produced this soundtrack and did an excellent job of gathering talented artists. If you like Kendrick Lamar’s music then you need to check out this soundtrack. There’s not a skippable song in the whole album!

What I’m Watching: Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Season 2

Of course, I’ll continue to follow Jessica Jones’s story on Netflix! If superheroes are not your thing, you should still check out Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Season 1. This show is a drama with a ton of surprises. A great blend of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies and Law and Order: SVU.

Reaching and Engaging Students in a College Town

First off, my name is Douglas Shontz and I’m the Communications Specialist for State College, PA. For those of you that don’t know, State College is the community that is the home of Penn State University (PSU). PSU has enrollment numbers of approximately 47,000 students and State College has a population of approximately 42,000. Not all residents in State College are Penn State students. During the spring and fall semester, most residents are students. One of the biggest challenges I face is engaging students in #localgov.

Before reading on, watch this news story highlighting students’ awareness of local government in State College.

How do you get students to get engaged in local issues? How do you inform them about what’s happening in State College? I have 3 tips that can help:

1. Partner

The best way to spread the word and increase your audience is to partner with the MANY student organizations. This gives you the ability to tap into their communications channels. These partnerships have enabled me to increase State College’s listserv subscriptions and social media audience.

For example, the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State is performing Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage and I worked with Penn State staff and students to help offer a free “Friday Night Dance Social” in the State College Municipal Building that will teach attendees the dance moves from Dirty Dancing. This helps promote their event to the community, while also bridging town and gown.

2. Have Fun

Our work is inherently boring for everyone who is not a #LocalGovNerd. I’ve found that thinking outside the box and finding ways to make the work fun can help engage students. The best example of this is State College’s Annual Living in One Neighborhood (LION) Bash to help welcome and inform Penn State Students about State College.

Orienting students on local ordinances or discussing the best way to prevent apartment fires is a hard sell. Instead, we have a block party with live fire demonstrations, music, food, and games! One of the coolest new features in 2017 was the local radio station, B94.5 (ALL THE HITS), broadcasted live during the event. This is just an example that you may have to break the norms of public meetings to properly engage all residents.

3. The Works

What I mean by, “the works”, is that I do not just put out a media release, website post, and social media post when trying to inform residents. I have found success in doing everything you can to get the word out.

After going through the normal channels (listserv, media release, website post, and social media), try some outside the box communications. Participate in a local podcast or radio show, develop multiple Instagram story posts, or speak to a class on campus. This is time-consuming but worth it. I consistently hear from students, “I didn’t know about that!”