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A Star Graduates
A Star Graduates

How trust turned a SUNY Oswego student into a campus celebrity and demonstrated the value of student video blogs

By Theresa Walker


(camera) Stevanovicigor/iSTOCK/Thinkstock; (vlog stills) Suny Oswego



Alyssa Levenberg isn't just a student at the State University of New York at Oswego: She's a video star. As the producer, editor, and host of the popular campus series Alyssa Explains It All, this video blogger—or vlogger—chats about navigating college life, covering topics such as interacting with roommates and professors to coping with dining hall food and stress. Her 50-plus episodes, primarily geared toward prospective and incoming students, have racked up more than 40,000 views on YouTube alone. CURRENTS spoke with Levenberg, who will graduate in May 2016, and Tim Nekritz, associate director of communications and marketing and director of digital communications at SUNY Oswego. They talked about what they've learned from producing the series—and how it all started in 2012 with a tweet from the then-freshman offering to make videos.

Were you looking for a student video blogger?

Nekritz: I'd been interested in doing student vlogs for a long time. When I saw Alyssa's tweet, watched her previous videos, and met her, I thought, "This is perfect." I wanted someone who could speak to prospective and incoming students and serve as a reassuring guide for that huge transition from high school to college. That's what Alyssa's doing when she says, "You're awesome, I'm awesome," a sort of catchphrase, in each video.

Your approach is "We don't approve blog posts, we approve bloggers." Will more campuses move in this direction?

Nekritz: When I speak about our student bloggers and vloggers at conferences, that idea seems to be a eureka moment for a lot of people. It's almost always the most tweeted and retweeted part of my presentation. Alyssa is proof of that concept. You can trust students to create content that connects and to be a responsible ambassador for the college.

What's your favorite video?

Levenberg: The "Dorms" video because it was most effective. I always get that question: What residence hall should I pick? Now when people ask, I tell them to watch the video.

Nekritz: The "Being Yourself" video. Alyssa says that the friends you make freshman year won't necessarily be your friends throughout college. A statement like that would have no credibility coming from me, but coming from Alyssa it's reassuring. Her "Being Homesick" video is a favorite because it's one of the biggest issues students deal with.

Was there trepidation about Alyssa's videos within the administration?

Nekritz: Some people were reluctant at first. They would watch and say that she's not using our language—the language of the administration. But she shouldn't be—she should talk like a student. She said dorms instead of residence halls. I shouldn't do that, but that's what students say. She acknowledges that it snows here and that people party. We're just trying to give people a look at what life is like.

What advice do you have for student vloggers, Alyssa?

Levenberg: Put a little bit of yourself in every video. Don't be instructional. Talk to the camera like it's a person; it's more conversational. Experience will help you learn about your audience, what they want, and what you want to say. Remember that what you say reflects on you and the college—and that future employers may watch your videos.

What have you learned from this experience?

Nekritz: This has been a great exercise in showing what can happen when you trust people and empower them to be creative and be themselves. It's amazing to see how many incoming students are starstruck by Alyssa, who's a campus celebrity now. People cite her as the reason they came to Oswego.

About the Author Theresa Walker Theresa Walker

Theresa Walker is a senior editor at Currents, where she covers the marketing and communications beat.

 

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