June 22, 2016
"I mean, we had to, right?" That’s what I told a group of my Big Ten Plus colleagues while I was showing our year-end video and the footage from the U-M game appeared on the screen, complete with the fan in the “surrender cobra” pose. Everyone groaned or laughed, even the folks representing Michigan. Sure, we’re absolutely rivals on the field, but in our field of higher education communications, we’re full of respect and admiration for each other. We’re even friends.
I, along with two of my MSU colleagues, spent a couple of days last week at Washington University at St. Louis (part of the “plus” of our group with a beautiful campus and fantastic hosts), learning from others in our field, sharing ideas, forming partnerships, discussing challenges and offering solutions. Oh, and sweating. A lot. Wow, was it hot. My sweat was sweating. The 102-degree heat index was something to behold. But even extreme temperatures couldn’t keep the Big Ten Plus communicators down for long. We simply wiped off and kept working.
It’s always great to spend time with our contemporaries from other schools. Like I said, we are rivals on the field, but that’s all in fun. The real stuff, the important stuff, is the work that our research universities are doing to change the world. There probably isn’t a researcher around who hasn’t collaborated with a scientist at another university. The best researchers, and communicators, realize that strength comes in numbers and diversity.
Plus, we got to show off a little. Pride is strong when you get a bunch of Big Ten Plus employees together. We had the chance to show the video I mentioned above as an example of a communications “win” from the previous year. Everyone loved it…and they should. My colleagues Anthony and Ellen did a fantastic job putting it together and it recently won a prestigious national gold award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Higher Education. If you haven’t already seen it, you should check it out. Even if you have seen it, it’s always worth another look.
Not to brag…well, maybe I’m bragging a little, but we also won three other gold awards for last year’s President’s Report, the Spartans Will brand page and our Virtual Choir project. And, something I’m incredibly proud of, a platinum award for Best Practices in Communications and Marketing. Spartans are kind of a big deal and our colleagues were suitably impressed. I will say this, everyone knows about Spartans Will. People used it throughout the conference when talking about our work and university. My favorite was a friend from Minnesota declaring, “Spartans Will make smarter choices,” when discovering we had located some great air conditioning and moved indoors.
Jinhua Zhao believes strongly in the power of partnership and diversity. He is a professor of economics, agriculture, food and resource economics, and the director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program. He says that the “secret to the success of the ESPP has been, simply put, flexibility and inclusivity.” Read his FACULTY VOICE: For the common good, to learn more about this important program.
Kendra Kamp is doctoral student in the College of Nursing who took advantage of learning about health care from colleagues in a very different place – Cuba. She recently was part of a trip that nursing and medical students took to study a different system of health care in that country. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Strengthening ties and exchanging ideas, to find out more about her trip and what she discovered there.
No matter what kind of work you do, there’s much to be learned from others who do it differently. Spartans understand that diversity of ideas and the collective power of individuals create change that is pretty incredible. So don’t sit in your corner by yourself. Seek out others. Form partnerships. Learn from colleagues. Keep an open mind. Share ideas. Help others. Oh, and be proud. We’ve earned it.