Story by ANDY LYONS, News Editor—
UCM President Dr. Charles Ambrose took two hours Tuesday to respond to questions from students and the community via his Twitter account, @UCMAmbrose. According to a press release, the event was believed to be the first of its kind on any college campus. The session ended just under 10 minutes early because Ambrose’s Twitter account was maxed out on tweets.
Live streams of the chat, which was held under the Twitter hashtag #askAmbrose, were held at the UCM Union Cinema and in classrooms all over campus. Several teachers used the event as a teaching method. Ed Wirthwein, assistant director of the Elliott Union, said that students were stopping in at the Cinema with their lunch and watching the questions and answers stream during the event.
Ambrose answered over 100 questions that in turn had over 700 responses, including retweets. The varied questions included some of light topic matter, including questions from the elusive Central Man and which UCM parody account Ambrose preferred, @UCMSquirrel or @dirtyburgprobs. Other questions included topics such as UCM’s nursing program, housing and student success.
Ambrose made many allusions made to the future, such as housing and other improvements beginning in the fall of this year.
Ambrose was in his office for the event, along with members of UCM’s marketing staff. During the chat, when the volume of questions began to rise, members of the staff typed the responses always from Ambrose himself.
Ambrose said that he really enjoyed the experience.
“I want to especially give appreciation for our marketing and communications staff. They are very creative with social networking and digital media,” he said. “I am always energized by interacting with students. I never knew you could engage with as many students with the diversity of topics and interest that Twitter allows.”
Dr. Wendy Geiger, an associate professor of communication, had the #askAmbrose feed on the projector during a class and followed along with the entire session. She said she views it as a positive experience, from both the administrative and student side of the event.
“An event like this really helps the administration understand student issues while at the same time the students felt connected to the administration,” she said. “When students in class saw their tweet come across the live feed and then saw it being answered they were really empowered.”
Wirthwein also views it as a positive experience for students at UCM, while it also builds Ambrose’s popularity amongst the student body.
“It was interesting all of the different types of questions that he was getting and it seemed like he answered all of them that he could,” he said. “It was risky for him to do it, but he is such a public person and really wants to be engaged with what is going on with the students. That’s why the students are so drawn to him.”
Ambrose said that he has been impressed at the high level of focus, respect and genuine concern expressed by students since he came to UCM. He said that students have a great sense of humor and care about not only their futures, but the future of the University as well, so he wasn’t too concerned about the types of questions he would receive.
Geiger also said that Ambrose is known for responding to students via his Twitter account often, so it wasn’t a real surprise when the tweet chat event came about.
“Since he’s active on Twitter already, the 140 characters is a relatively low risk, high reward situation with an event like this,” she said. “I applaud him for putting himself out there to be more involved with students.”
Students and faculty weren’t the only ones who said they enjoyed the event. Ambrose was asked during the chat if he was willing to host another one, to which he responded, “Absolutely.”
“It was a really excellent event, I enjoy the interaction that I have with students on Twitter and the chat took it to another level,” Ambrose said. “It was challenging to make quality responses for two hours. I don’t think we should do it every week!”