Guest Blogger Chris Norris (Class of 2008)
Do you remember when you were looking around at colleges and you heard that WC was a “liberal arts” college. Did that mean anything to you? It did not weigh much on my decision to attend Westminster College. In fact, I did not quite understand what that a “liberal arts” education entailed. I was focused mostly on what my major would be and whether or not I’d get a job after I graduated.
At that moment in my college search, I did not realize nor appreciate the valuable lessons and skills I’d learn through my liberal arts education. I am not attempting to make a pitch for Westminster College nor any other liberal arts institution, I am simply reflecting on how the liberal arts education I received, equipped me with a digital tool belt that I use every single day at work.
Currently, I am the web, social media and video director at a private, catholic, liberal arts university in Erie, Pa. Mercyhurst University was founded by the sisters of Mercy in 1926 and is deeply rooted in its catholic traditions and plays to the strength of offering students a well-rounded, service-oriented, hands-on approach to education. It is truly a great university and I love working there. It is at Mercyhurst that I have been given the chance to step out of my skill-set comfort zone and try new things:
- New responsibilities.
- New projects.
- New software.
- New clients.
- A new role.
To be frank, my job could be divided into three full-time jobs:
- Website management – managing content and overseeing all access to mercyhurst.edu
- Social Media – developing, strategizing and engaging across all social media channels
- Video – producing video content for web and television that drives the admissions process
I like that I get to keep my hands on so many different areas of the digital world. Yes, at times, it can be overwhelming and difficult to prioritize, but I adapt and adjust with every project that comes my way. If you’re considering a career in communications or digital media, you should take the same approach. Keep plenty of tools in your digital tool belt
Here are the ways in which my well-rounded, liberal arts education from Westminster College helped me build my digital tool belt:
WRITING – to be effective in communications, particularly across social media platforms, good writing skills are critical. Whether it is writing for the web, video, or in 140 characters or less, I rely heavily on the ability to convey concise information while maintaining consistent tone. At Westminster, I took journalism and broadcast writing courses, in addition to other core classes such as Inquiry 111 that stressed the importance of writing.
COMMUNICATING – Granted I was a communications major, I am referring to general communication within the work environment. One of my biggest issues with any large corporation or small business is lack of communication. It is impossible to accomplish anything without solid communicating and collaborating. Some of my fondest memories from WC come from the newsroom, television station or editing bay, spending countless hours working with others to prepare for broadcasts. I’ve taken these same
practices with me into my professional career and feel very confident in my effectiveness as a communicator among my peers.
CREATIVITY – I think its safe to say that I found myself creatively while at Westminster. I was given the freedom to try new things and expand upon my education to find my niche and passion. Yes, I spent time on Titan Radio and the Westminster Cable Network, but I soon found that video editing was what I loved. My instructors encouraged me to try new things and push the broadcast boundaries in the work I produced.
CURRENT – Do you know how hard it is to keep up with the many ways college students are communicating? When I first took over social media at Mercyhurst, Facebook and Twitter would suffice. Since then (2012), we’ve added Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn and YikYak to our repertoire. I remember “the good old days” when you could count on people watching a one-minute video. Now, six seconds is all you get! Through my experience as a broadcasting major, I remember the transition from analog to digital and how learning to adjust and adapt was an important part of finding success and stability within the industry. So now, learning to adjust and adapt in the same way to meet our target audience wherever they are, comes easier for me. I enjoy the challenge to stay current and make sure we are trending with the latest forms of social media, web and video practices.
FAITH – Above anything that Westminster College provided me, it gave me the opportunity to grow in my faith. In fact, I would not have been able to attend WC if it weren’t for the generous Young Presbyterian Scholarship I received. I was also heavily involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes where I was surrounded by fellow Christian athletes and mentors who shaped my college experience. Today, I am on staff part-time at McLane Church where I serve as the assistant to the pastor and manage social media.
I am grateful for the opportunity to write and reflect upon my time at Westminster College and the way in which my liberal arts education equipped me for my career in digital media. I would be remiss if I did not tip my cap to the excellence of the faculty I worked with in the broadcast communications department. Let this opportunity I’ve been given be the perfect example of how the faculty do value the students and keep tabs on their lives after college.