By Natalie Hambalek • Because I plan a career at a non-profit organization, the skills I have developed in online communities have contributed immensely to what I call my real world “tool-belt.” This April, I had the amazing opportunity to speak at Campus Compact’s 2012 Continuums of Service Conference in Seattle, Washington. Despite my uneasiness with public speaking, when I was first offered the opportunity to co-present on using social media to address our civic mission, I knew this was something I could not pass up! I am always looking for new experiences to learn, grow, develop and enhance my skills that will better equip me in life and help with my personal growth. With that being said, I was honored to be asked to participate in sharing my knowledge and perspective with other staff, faculty, and students at other higher education institutions as well as community partners from all over the Western Region. I quickly began preparing for this exciting experience. I made our informative presentation using online freeware and alternative to PowerPoint, Prezi, which can be viewed here.
Since I have been working at the Center for Community Engagement(CCE) at Sonoma State University, I have learned that social media is an integral tool when it comes to working in pretty much every field. Especially in the non-profit sector, many types of social media—blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. can be uniquely used to address and further advance an organization’s mission. When I started at the CCE three years ago, my very first project was creating a logo – essentially our brand. Since then, I have been a part of almost every social media effort. By strategically using social media tools we have ultimately been able to measure the effectiveness of our work with our various constituencies; faculty, community partners and students.
At the conference in Seattle, I was immersed into a sea of service-learning and civic engagement experts and I was able to network and hear what they were implementing on their campuses or in their community organizations. The entire conference addressed the theme of “Creating the New Vision for Higher Education.” The sessions I attended varied from emphasizing maintaining and strengthening community partnerships and reciprocity to civic engagement and diversity, I was able to gain some valuable insight as well as experience some personal revelations. One of these revelations was that having a liberal arts education which develops students in being well-versed in the ways of the world, as well as being inclusive of all types of people, is something that higher education should continue to strive for. But just as importantly, students should realize their vital role in their education. Obviously in recessions like this, it is important for all stakeholders to re-vision ways to utilize all of the available resources that universities have to offer. Furthermore, it is each student’s duty to utilize these resources to the best of their abilities in order to gain a holistic college experience. From a student perspective, I realized that as time changes, it is critical for higher education to evolve accordingly to ensure students are best prepared for the world around them. I feel that I have done an extremely good job in that I have taken every opportunity to be a well-rounded student that is hopefully ready for the workforce in one year. Speaking and participating in the 2012 Continuums of Service Conference helped me realize my role as a student, gave me a great chance to practice public speaking and also helped to better enhance my role as a student assistant at the CCE.