Blogging Globally Connects BestSemester Opportunities

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BestSemester programs engage students where they’re already plugged in: the blogosphere.
BestSemester programs engage students where they’re already plugged in: the blogosphere.

WASHINGTON-From professional development to program promotion, BestSemester programs engage current, former and prospective students where they're already plugged in: the blogosphere.

"BestSemester programs use blogging for a variety of reasons," said Lindsey Podguski, campus relations manager for BestSemester. "Some of our international programs find that blog posts featuring photos of cultural experiences, along with student reflections, help minimize the distance between students and their friends and family back home. Our domestic programs, on the other hand, often employ blogs to highlight student work, which can aid in alumni networking and professional exposure."

At the Contemporary Music Center in Nashville, Tenn., business faculty member Natalie Ferwerda oversees a blog whose primary aim is to provide support and resources to current and former students. Though Ferwerda posts from time to time, the majority of content - including alumni interviews and video highlights from stops on the program's semester tour - comes from students, she says.

In his recent post, "Survival Guide: Managing Two Artists," current CMC business track student Stephen Johnston advises his colleagues on dealing with "creative" but "unorganized" musicians.

"Managing one artist takes energy and a lot of focus, but managing two artists...that can drive some [people] crazy," Johnston writes. "The key to successfully managing multiple artists is using a calendar or a planner."

Fellow CMC student Lexy Wiersma took a similar approach in her lighthearted, "10 Things You Should Know Before Coming to CMC," which includes insider tips ("The staff at CMC doesn't drink coffee. If you are picky, bring your own."), industry observations ("If you are a drummer, you will be needed...by everyone.") and practical advice on how to succeed in the program ("Early is on time.").

Some programs, such as the Washington Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., incorporate blogs directly into their curriculum. In addition to writing for the program's blog for participation credit, WJC students are graded on their journalistic blogging in the class, "Washington, News and Public Discourse."

The assignment enables students to become experts on a specific subject while honing a crucial journalistic skill in today's media market, according to program director Terry Mattingly.

"Blogging was the first form of social media that had any impact in the mainstream press, starting around 2005," said Mattingly. "It's still evolving and we are still trying to keep up. The key is that we want our students exposed to the basic news forms that have lasted from generation to generation, such as wire-service news reporting. We also want them to plug into the new forms that are linked to online publishing. All we can do is keep trying to keep up, since no one really knows where this digital industry is going."

In international programs such as the Australia Studies Centre, India Studies Program and others, staff and faculty use blogs to highlight students' cultural and academic experiences in the program, allowing family, friends and prospective students to peek in on each semester. 

At ASC's blog, cleverly tagged "The Upside of Life Down Under," program assistant Ty Tuin posts photos of the staff preparing for move-in day, as well as new student orientation and the program's Australia Day celebration. One ocean away at the India Studies Program, Tuin's ISP counterpart - program assistant Karmen Tam - tries to portray what life is like for students in Combiatore, India, on the program's blog, Riding in Rickshaws.

In addition to documenting and preserving students' experiences, Tam said, program blogs and Facebook pages also play an important role in helping prospective students envision what their encounters in a foreign country might look like.

"Potential students can see what is happening now in Coimbatore," said Tam. "They get an idea of what their semester in India could potentially look like and what opportunities they will have.

"For current students, [Facebook] is a way to share their experiences with people who follow our page. We often have their friends and family engage us and our students by commenting.They enjoy having a window into moments here."

According to director Kirk McClelland, ISP's blog is vital in helping the new program - now in its fourth semester - establish its own identity.

"Social media tells our story," said McClelland. "It reminds past students of the experiences, ideas, and people who influenced their time in India. It helps past students stay connected, and future students see how their lives might be changed because of the opportunities they may encounter while in India."

Though each of BestSemester's 12 programs maintains its own Facebook fan page, people can follow the general BestSemester fan page - an aggregate of each program's content - to see updates from all of the programs.

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About BestSemester: The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities offers 12 off-campus study programs, collectively branded BestSemester®, which expand learning opportunities for students from CCCU campuses and are designated as culture-shaping or culture-crossing programs. Culture-shaping BestSemester programs are: American Studies Program (Washington, D.C.); Contemporary Music Center (Nashville); Los Angeles Film Studies Center (Los Angeles); and Washington Journalism Center (Washington, D.C.). Culture-crossing BestSemester programs are: Australia Studies Centre; China Studies Program; India Studies Program; Latin American Studies Program; Middle East Studies Program; Programmes in Oxford; and Uganda Studies Program. Visit www.bestsemester.com for program details.

About the CCCU:  The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 172 intentionally Christ-centered institutions around the world. The 118 member campuses in North America are all fully-accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences. In addition, 54 affiliate campuses from 20 countries are part of the CCCU. The Council's mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit www.cccu.org.