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SMC departments embrace social media with new Instagram accounts

| Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A year ago, the department of religious studies at Saint Mary’s established their own Instagram page. Other departments, such as humanistic studies and philosophy, were quick to follow, joining religious studies on Instagram as well as creating pages on other sites.

The accounts are most often used to connect with other groups on campus, post internship advertisements and promote events.

The religious studies Instagram, called “saintmaryscollegerlst,” was created by religious studies professor Molly Gower. Gower said she decided to make the Instagram page to promote communication between students and faculty.

“It’s a way of meeting students where they’re at,” Gower said. “We want to meet students on their platform and help continue classroom discussions in a new way.”

Gower said she hopes to expand the account to include all of the department’s faculty members. One day it may be possible for religious studies majors and even minors to post their own content, Gower added.

“We may even hire a director of social media for the religious studies department, or make some sort of social media internship available,” Gower said.

Gower said for some of the older professors, Instagram may be difficult to use.

“These things make us uncomfortable because they’re new,” she said. “I have learned so much from when I started the page … just about photo editing and the world of Instagram. It lets the students take over the conversation and provides a platform where they’ll be comfortable to speak up.”

The Instagram page has helped some students’ ideas take off. For example, the College’s 2018 trip to the Met’s Heavenly Bodies Exhibit was originally pitched on Instagram.

“Instagram has also provided us with a way to stay connected to alumnae and visitors to the college,” Gower said. “Students were able to reach out to one of our speakers, Michelle Kuo, over Instagram, and cultivate a relationship with her.”

Laura Williamson Ambrose, chair of the humanistic studies department at Saint Mary’s, runs the humanistic studies Instagram, “[email protected]” Ambrose said she finds the page to be a useful communication resource.

“The experience on Instagram is different from say, Facebook” Ambrose said. “It provides a wider audience and it’s just a different language. The language of Instagram is faster, more powerful and it has a broader reach. You can really forge a network there.”

Ambrose said she has found hashtags particularly useful in helping Humanistic Studies reach its target audience, she added.

“The hashtags are a way of reaching niche fields, and [allow] fans of various domains to follow and explore our program,” she said. “A lot of our followers are students or alumnae, but occasionally we get someone who just loves literature or art.”

Ambrose said the account also helps alumnae stay in touch with Saint Mary’s.

“It’s a nice way for alumnae to keep their finger on the pulse of the department,” she said. “It allows them to be more connected with the current students and it’s more everyday than the polished official college website.”

Gower said the religious studies Instagram does not follow back.

“It’s not about being a creepster,” she said.

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