In her short time as vice president for student affairs, Gage Paine has taken on a bold goal of meeting all 50,000 UT students and is using Twitter to reach out to students she might not be able to meet in person.
“Twitter did not exist 15 years ago when I started in student affairs, and there was barely email when I was at UT,” Paine said. “Social media is the biggest change since then. The methods of communication have changed drastically, but the issues are still the same, and the broader communication methods allow for broader questions and attention to the needs of a more diverse student body.”
Paine is one of the few University administrators who are active on Twitter. Paine said her goal in the first few months is to get reacquainted with the campus and the new issues students face today. She created her new account in July after accepting her position at the University and has gained 504 followers since. Paine posts on Twitter more than 150 times a month.
The UT vice president of student affairs serves more than 50,000 students and oversees the Office of the Dean of Students, University Health Services and Division of Housing and Food Service, among other divisions.
Paine uses social media to promote University initiatives and regularly highlights campus programs on Twitter, including the “What’s on Your Mind” series she created. She has hosted four meet-ups with students this semester aside from her regular meetings with student organizations.
“It allows me to invite students to have a conversation with me and meet some students I might not meet any other way to obtain a more comprehensive view of student life on campus,” she said.
Biology junior Andy Do attended one of Paine’s meet-ups to discuss parking, involvement in student organizations and diversity at UT. Do said Paine’s efforts to reach out and engage with students will not go unnoticed.
“I believe it is important that she is reaching out to students to show that she, along with the University, cares.” he said. “Occasionally, it seems like a one-way street when it comes to the relationship between a student and an administrator or professor. It is invigorating to know that the folks who teach us also care about our well-being.”
Architecture professor Lawrence Speck chaired the search committee who hired Paine. Speck said Paine’s commitment to reach out to students was the prime reason she was recommended for the position.
During a campus-wide evacuation following a bomb threat in September, Paine used her Twitter account to disseminate verified information to students who she said she sees as constitutents.
“The day of the bomb threat, I tweeted what was authorized,” Paine said. “It was the exact, official language, and it was very effective because even in that short period of time I was followed by people with large Twitter networks.”
Paine replaced Juan C. Gonzalez, former vice president of student affairs, after he stepped down from the position earlier this year. Paine’s experience with student affairs includes various administrative positions at Southern Methodist University, Trinity University and UT-San Antonio, where she served as vice president of student affairs overseeing approximately 30,000 students.
Paine said she is currently meeting with University deans and will wrap up the learning stage of her student outreach this semester in order to create specific initiatives she wants to pursue in the future.
Published on October 24, 2012 as: "Administrator tweets to engage with students"