A non-tweeting dean’s response to #AMAhighered

new-twitter-logoThis week I gave a keynote address at the American Marketing Association Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education.  The meeting in New Orleans had approximately 1,000 attendees, most of whom were marketing and communications professionals in colleges and universities, the remainder largely representatives of firms that sell marketing services and products to higher education institutions.  The organizers were encouraging attendees to tweet throughout the conference, and one of the sponsors was offering a prize to tweeters (though it wasn’t clear whether the prize was going to the most prolific tweeter, the most salient, or perhaps the luckiest).

My talk was the luncheon keynote, and the lunch was a Thanksgiving meal – just what every after-lunch speaker wants, a large dose of tryptophan delivered to the audience.  I joked to the person introducing me that they might as well have put a football game on the large screens flanking the stage, that way everyone could have just gone to sleep.  But undaunted, I embarked on my talk titled, “Higher Education Under Attack: Why Doesn’t Anybody Like Us and How Should We Respond?”  While I have given a number of keynotes in the past, and I’m sure throughout some of the recent ones people were tweeting, this is the first time that there was active encouragement of tweeting.

During the talk itself, as I looked out on the audience and saw individuals with their fingers and thumbs on phones or iPads, I wondered just how many of them were tweeting.  During the speech, I felt at times a bit like someone who was the target of a voodoo doll; I would make a statement, and then a few seconds later would feel a pinch, as someone fired off a tweet in response.  So after I returned to the comfort of my office, I was curious to see what people had to say during the talk.  I was interested not just in whether they liked it or not, but also which of the things that I said elicited the most Twitter traffic.  I had some specific comments that I thought were the most important parts of my talk, and that I tried to highlight, so I wanted to see whether people responded to those the most.

So I pulled up the Twitter stream from the symposium.  I’ll admit I’m not a Twitter user, and have had little experience looking at such a stream.  To the beginner, Twitter doesn’t make it easy; even if you know the hashtag for the event, you have to wade through the whole stream to get to what you are looking for.  It is in chronological order, which does make it a little easier, but you still have to read through a lot to find specific comments.  Eventually I got to the tweets during my talk, and enjoyed seeing what people had to say. They ran the gamut, from the snarky to the informative.

So here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly (not necessarily in that order), along with my commentary.

  • Don Schindler@donschindler: RT @lizgross144: #amahighered idea for next year: recliners provided to all attendees during lunchtime keynote. Sit back, relax, and…
    Blame it on the tryptophan, Don, not my content.  Okay, maybe just a little on my content.
  • Allison Turcio@allisonturcio: .4% of undergrads have >$100,000 student loan debt. Grad/law/medical is 6.4%.
    You nailed it, Allison – this was a key point in my presentation, that with all of the talk about a student loan bubble, only .4% of undergrads – or about 8,000 per year, are graduating with student loan debt in excess of $100,000 per year.
  • SarahWarfieldMurrill@kirkwoodgirl73: 90% with 100k in student debt are grad student loan debt. Only .04% with > 100k in student debt are actually undergrads grads.
    Close, Sarah – it was 0.4%, not 0.04%.  One of the problems with Twitter is that misinformation is easily – and immediately – distributed.
  • Nancy Raskauskas@NancyR10: #amahighered very interesting presentation by Dean Heller. Good points. Many former journalist in marketing though, don’t diss NYT too hard!
    My favorite kind of tweet – combines a compliment and criticism in under 140 characters.  But sorry, Nancy, I’m not going to go easy on the Old Gray Lady just because many in the audience were former journalists.  She was referring to my criticism of the Times in this blog post and in this one.
  • beth_wolfe@beth_wolfe: “We should not make public policy based on outliers and poor decisions of individuals.” Don Heller, Mich State. AMEN!!
    Thank you, Beth – that was one of my key points, so glad to see you responded to it.
  • Irene Neller@IreneEN: Dr. Heller:There’s no student loan debt bubble! Makes 4 great media hype-counteract with facts. Comparing apples to asparagus
    I thought I said “apples and artichokes,” but close enough.
  • RickJSmith@RickJSmith: Heller: There is no student loan bubble. #amahighered. Credit to non-credit worthy? Beyond ability to repay? Total value outstanding?
    I agree, Rick – there are probably some students taking out student loans who are not credit-worthy, or taking out loans beyond their ability to pay.  But that in itself does not make for a bubble.
  • Liz Gross@lizgross144: I’ll have a Ph.D. in a year or so. Still won’t have close to $100K in debt.
    Glad to hear that, Liz.  We work really hard with our graduate students to help them minimize the amount of debt they incur during their Ph.D. studies.
  • Jennifer Umberger@UmbergerJL: Reasonable borrowing for student loans is still a good investment
    Thank you, Jennifer – this was another key point from my talk.
  • Elaine Meese@ElaineMeese: Loans under $100K are also relevant.
    Good point, Elaine.  I used the $100,000 threshold because that is what so many of the media stories focused on.
  • Liz Gross@lizgross144: Speaker tells everyone to tweet something, then says he made it up. Twitter lies!!!
    Yeah, Liz, I was messing with your head.  I put up a slide with some data that was flattering to the marketing profession, and suggested that people tweet it.  Then after a few seconds, I told them I had made up the data.  Glad you enjoyed my dig at Twitter.
  • Allison Turcio@allisonturcio: #shoulabeenafootballcoach
    Allison was undoubtedly responding to my slide showing the salaries of the highest-paid football coaches.
  • Amy Morton@AmyMMorton: I can’t look at that salary chart without shuddering.
    Not sure if Amy was responding to the football coaches salaries, the presidential salaries slide, or the average faculty salaries slide.
  • Shana Glenzer@sglenzer:  Fave moment @ #amahighered may have been Dean Heller saying “You can tell this isn’t a regular HE conference. You’re all dressed so well.”
    And this may have been my favorite tweet.  Thanks, Shana.

I’ll stop there, but there were plenty more.  Suffice to say it was an interesting experience, and thanks to all the audience members who took the time to respond – for better or for worse – to what I had to say.  While I do not tweet, I will ask someone from our college’s communications staff to tweet a link to this blog post with the #amahighered hashtag.

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