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1308 PD: Is your professor on Facebook?

Published on 29 August 2008

In the June 17 issue of Progressive Dairyman this year, our staff published a story about how the dairy industry, and agricultural college students in particular, has been utilizing Facebook.com. As we have come to discover, it’s not just the students who are taking advantage of the social networking site.

“[Facebook] really is the best way for us to ‘find’ students and get their information,” says Paula Beecher, the coordinator of student and career services for the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) at Clemson University in South Carolina. “And it’s the best way for us to disseminate our announcements and information.”

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Beecher says she decided to set up a Facebook account after “tons of students” asked her if she had a profile. She says CAFLS is using the website, as well. The college has set up a group page and is benefiting from the many applications Facebook offers.

“We utilize the RSVP function a lot for big, college-wide events we have,” Beecher says. “We will also do polls when we are making decisions about dates and such.”

Beecher says a lot of other faculty and staff members have Facebook profiles, too. Many personnel enjoy posting and looking at photos of student activities and other college events. Members also enjoy being able to reach the students in a new way.

“I like that we can get the information out to students on their terms,” Beecher says. “In other words, not flood their inboxes with e-mails. They know the info will be on the site if they want to look at it. Also, Facebook will send them a notice instead of us.”

Another benefit for both students and faculty is that Facebook allows the opportunity to keep in touch with alumni.

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“A lot of times we will have freshmen or sophomores who want to shadow someone in a certain industry or who are interested in graduate school at another [university],” Beecher says. “Using Facebook, we will hook them up with alums at those places. It is a great information source.”

Beecher says Clemson also has a group for alumni of the South Carolina Commissioner’s School for Agriculture, which is a weeklong summer educational program for excelling high school juniors and seniors around the country.

“We have utilized that for a lot of references, such as data tracking of where the students ended up in school and what major they chose,” Beecher says.

Although she admits she is still getting used to some of the website’s features, Beecher believes it is a great way for her to keep in contact with former students and other friends. She advises other faculty and staff members that it “just makes sense” to take advantage of the website.

“I have the opinion that if you can’t beat them, join them, and that is what I did with Facebook,” Beecher says. “I think once you overcome all of the myths about Facebook, and social networking sites in general, you will see its effectiveness and how it actually makes your job easier.” PD

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