#IChoseUMich:Social Media Map Connects Students Worldwide

Picking their graduate school is a pretty big deal for students and, for those attending universities in the U.S., April 15 is Signing Day — the day they’ll have to make their final decision about where they’re going to spend the majority of their next 3–6 years.

One of those options is Rackham Graduate School, the home of graduate education at the University of Michigan. Rackham has organised a hashtag campaign for Signing Day and has invited their incoming students to publicly declare #IChoseUMich on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, posting pictures, their hometown and what they’ll be studying.

Our map theme from Camp404 found its purpose

When the Rackham Graduate School was looking for a way to show the wide range of locations their students hail from, our Walls.io developers went back to the map theme they had been toying around with during the last Camp404.

Map GIF for Rackham Signing Day
Rackham even created a GIF! It’s almost as if they knew how much I love GIFs. 😉

It seems almost serendipitous now that, during the company retreat, Walls.io CEO Michael came up with a theme that shows people’s posts popping up on a map depending on where they are posting from.

Back in summer, the theme had been merely a gimmick. But with Rackham actively seeking a feature like that, it was time to turn it into a fully-fledged Walls.io theme.

The map theme will soon be available to all Walls.io users. For now, let’s have a look at how Rackham is using this brand new theme for their exemplary #IChoseUMich campaign.

Welcoming new graduate students in style

The communications team at Rackham has pulled out all the stops for their Signing Day campaign. They’ve set up an elaborate hashtag campaign, created a GIF to promote and visualise their use of the map theme, and launched a dedicated microsite that serves as a one-stop shop to welcome new students in style.

The map-themed social hub is embedded front and central on the microsite showing posts from UMich graduate students all over the world.

A screenshot of the Rackham Graduate School’s microsite with the Walls.io map theme embed.
The Rackham Graduate School microsite welcomes new students.

All posts from the beginning of March leading up to Signing Day on April 15 have been gathered on the #IChoseUMich social media wall. Current students and alumni are also invited to use the hashtag or submit posts in order to show the diversity of disciplines and backgrounds of the Rackham community.

Celebrate “in-the-moment excitement”

We talked to Rackham’s communications manager Aileen Kim about the campaign and what Signing Day means to students and the university.

Why is Signing Day so important?

April 15th is the deadline commonly endorsed across the U.S. for applicants to Ph.D. programs to accept a funding package and commit to attending the school of their choice.

We recognise making a decision about graduate school is a big deal. For our master’s students, that entails 2–3 years of intense study often with internships, special projects, or performances.

For our Ph.D. and D.M.A. [Doctor of Musical Arts] students, they are committing to 5–6 years of hard work encompassing research, teaching, original creations, professional development, and other forms of training.

How does the #IChoseUMich campaign celebrate Signing Day?

#IChoseUMich lets new students celebrate on social media with photos, shout-outs, and in-the-moment excitement. The #IChoseUMich campaign is culminating on April 15 with an in-person, on-campus event we are calling Rackham Signing Day.

Beyond the celebratory confetti, the campaign demonstrates two key values of how Rackham serves its students: We support the diversity of Rackham graduate students’ backgrounds and experiences. And we want to create a sense of connection and continuity among the new cohort, current students, and alumni.

Rackham Graduate School Fall Welcome
News Rackham students mingle at the Fall Welcome 2014. ©Rackham Graduate School

At the core of this campaign is a message of inclusion, that each student belongs here and that each student enhances the learning environment on campus. That’s why we are calling on the Rackham community around the world to get mapped with #IChoseUMich on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

How does the Walls.io map feature come into play for your campaign?

Because we wanted to display the wide range of hometowns (37% of Rackham students are international, representing over 100 countries) and fields of study (111 doctoral and 100 master’s programs at UMich), our thoughts naturally drifted to creating a map of the world with locations marked by posts and tweets.

We work in partnership with the other 18 schools at the University of Michigan, and social media lends itself to tagging these other accounts as students and alumni are shouting out their programs of study.

Since we had used the Walls.io wall last spring for our graduation campaign #RackhamGrad, we reached out to them to see if they had a map product. It turned out they had a prototype they could finish to suit our needs.

How and where are you promoting the campaign?

For the campaign, the Walls.io map and wall are being embedded into our Welcome site, a kind of portal for new students to orient them to campus, life in Ann Arbor, and the many resources available to them.

Students are directed to this site when they receive their offer of admission, to help inform their decision-making. After they accept their offer, we highlight specific resources throughout the summer to ease their transition into the Fall semester.

We used the offer letters and matriculation confirmations to introduce the campaign and reached out directly to alumni and current students.

 

The map theme has a variety of use cases, and we here at Walls.io are loving how the University of Michigan has put it to use and built their hashtag campaign around their students’ geographical location.

When looking at the Rackham accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter one can’t help but notice how connected the graduate school is to their students. The effort that goes into creating such social media presence goes a long way towards making students feel a part of something. The elaborately planned #IChoseUmich campaign seems almost like a natural extension of Rackham’s existing social media efforts.

Do you or will you go to the University of Michigan? Did you partake in the #IChoseUMich campaign? If you go to another university I’d also love to know whether your school has ever made you feel connected by using social media? Do you think that these days academic institutions should definitely make an effort to be present on social media?