@GWPeterK takes student engagement online

In almost seven months, Dean of Students Peter Konwerski has tweeted 3,937 times. For the last week, he averaged 34 tweets a day.

The 42 year old has tweeted about everything from City Hall’s unkempt pool and broken elevators in South Hall, to University President Steven Knapp playing the bongo drums at Alumni Weekend and what movie Konwerski and his wife were watching on a Saturday night.

Konwerski said, until earlier this year, he had been afraid of Twitter and its “random symbols,” – the hashtags and mentions that he now uses daily.

“GWPeterK” started tweeting April 1 – 30 days after creating his account – after attending a lecture on the power of microblogging at a higher education conference. Within a week, Konwerski said he realized the new connections he was making with students.

“I thought to myself, this is an amazing tool,” he said.

Twitter has become the social media outlet of choice for associate dean of students, Tim Miller, as well.

Like Konwerski, Miller frequently refers students to FIXit and encourages students to come in and meet face-to-face about an issue.

Miller said, while it is still more common for him to receive an e-mail than a Tweet to schedule meetings, Twitter is a key new way to identify student issues.

“It’s where students are,” Miller said. “Students don’t express their concerns over e-mail.”

In early spring, Miller said he had 20 followers on Twitter. Now he has more than 400.

“It’s a dramatic shift from last year,” Miller said. Miller, who has sent more than 400 tweets since classes began, credits Konwerski for leading GW’s Twitter movement.

Miller said reaching out on social media appeals to students who wouldn’t otherwise be in regular contact with administrators.

“There is less pressure when students don’t feel that they are talking to you directly,” Miller said. “I am able to become aware of students’ complaints through what they tweet.”

Josh Fischman, a technology reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, said social media usage is growing in prominence among top-level college administrators across the country.

He pointed to The Chronicle’s August survey’s finding that 18 percent of college presidents used Twitter at least occasionally.

Fischman said the rise of social media use among top college leaders is not surprising as “they are in the business of communicating.”

Twitter in particular allows students to get in touch with their administrators and get to know them on a more personal level.

“Ten years ago, we would just have afternoon coffee; social media is a shortcut to that,” he said.

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