The University College program at American University is a “learning, living, laboratory community,” in which first-year students live with their peers from a specific class. Each class also has a program assistant living on the same floor; an upperclassman who guides labs associated with the class and can offer extra help to their students. The program has experienced unanticipated growth in recent years: There were 40 percent more applications this year over last year. However, many prospective and currently-registered American University students still do not have a clear understanding of what the program is.
To combat the uninformed, an online initiative is being made to clarify what University College is and make the students’ activities more transparent. Nicole Davies, communication specialist for UC, is in charge of the transparency initiative so incoming students can see everything. “UC is more about the overall experience, not one specific thing,” she said.
The University College FAQ says that UC is different from other first-year programs, such as Honors or Global Scholars, because it “capitalizes on elements that make AU distinctive.” Davies attempts to make this point clear, primarily through the use of social networks, and at the same time dispel misconceptions about the program. Davies says, “One of the misconceptions is that UC students are less social, and they need to be in the program to make friends.”
Davies’ initiative is centered on creating and maintaining #UCLabDay. She encourages students and program associates to use the hash tag on Twitter and Facebook to document their weekly lab activities, which vary from attending the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to participating in scavenger hunts to examining the state of nature at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
The key is that Davies doesn’t do all the work. She collects UC participants’ social media content in every corner of the Internet. On Twitter, both current UC students and their program associates tweet with information and images using #UCLabDay, and Davies retweets good ones with the @americanUC account. The Instagram account is fairly similar, but contains only uploaded images from students. On Facebook, she collects images that program associates take while the classes are out on their labs, and from other University College events. As of the time of writing, there are nearly 450 photos and students are only in the fourth week of school. The Pinterest account is a little different. It is static, and operates more as an introduction to the program as a whole. It will, however, direct you to Twitter and Facebook for real-time updates.
Davies was in the University College program herself, and she says her experience with the program was a strong incentive to return to it. “My closest friends to this day from college were classmates of mine in UC. So I think that goes to show the strength of community that was shown in the program,” she said.
To become a part of the community and see more of the UC students’ activities, go to Twitter and search #UCLabDay, or follow the program on any of the social networks listed below.
You can follow University College online at: