Thursday September 22, 2005

Campus Life Unfiltered

University of Dayton student bloggers share their experiences of campus life through a new student admission blog that prospective students can access on the Web, display on other sites or tune in on iPods. Welcome to MyLife at UD.

University of Dayton student blogger Emily Miller, a first-year undeclared arts major from Hilliard, Ohio, wrote about the first 45-minute power nap of her college career and "the art" of doing laundry.

Andrew McMorrow, a sophomore engineering major from Atlanta, shared news of a two-day canoe trip down the Great Miami River collecting macro-invertebrate samples and maneuvering through the freezing water of the downtown Riverscape fountains.

And John Amdor, a first-year international studies major from Omaha, Neb., penned a journal entry about a carefree night listening to music, talking politics, singing impromptu Disney tunes and running through sprinklers, "leaping for joy, reveling in our freedom and our youth."

Welcome to MyLife at UD, a breezy University of Dayton student admission blog. Prospective students can tap into it on UD's Web site, display it on another Web site, or hear entries on an iPod or other portable media player.

A small but growing trend in campus admission offices, admission blogs are giving Internet-savvy prospective college students a view of college life through the eyes of current students. Michael Stoner, president of mStoner, a marketing consulting firm headquartered in Chicago that has tracked college admission blogs, said he believes UD is the first university to use podcasting and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) technology.

"We believe the University of Dayton blog is one of the most sophisticated admission blogs in the country," said Marcus P. Robinson, director of Internet development and Web strategy for the University of Dayton. " Students are comfortable using iPods. They're comfortable displaying Web content on their many mobile devices, such as cell phones."

Beepix LLC, a New York City firm that specializes in providing Internet-based solutions for higher education, designed the site.

The six University of Dayton student bloggers were hand picked by administrators and earn $500 a semester for writing at least one blog entry per week. "In the spirit of free and open communication, we're not editing or approving anything they write. We'll read them, and if there's something horrifically egregious, we'll address it, but we don't expect that," Robinson said. A disclaimer on the site notes that the views expressed don't necessarily reflect the views of University of Dayton faculty, staff or other students.

John Amdor, 18, became a student blogger after spending the summer chatting with students and faculty on the University of Dayton's Virtual Orientation Web site, which turns first-year students into a network of friends. In one of his first blog entries, he chronicles, complete with photos, his 12-hour sojourn across country from Omaha, Neb. -- a day that started before dawn with his grandmother blessing him with holy water from the Knock Shrine in Ireland. After Hurricane Katrina struck, he writes that UD will equip him with the skills to be "a force for change in the world," noting that "coming from a school that was predominantly white, middle- to upper-class Catholic boys, it's been great to get perspective from a broader range of people, all with their own stories."

Amdor is having a kick sharing his observations with the curious. "It's a lot of fun. Not only is it fun for me to write down and journal what's going on, but I'm doing my best to paint a portrait for kids thinking about coming here," he said. "Maybe my experiences will help them make the right choice."

That's Allison Kretz's motivation, too. "I love sharing my positive experiences with others and playing some role in their decision-making process," said the sophomore sociology major from Maumee, Ohio, who confesses a special fondness for the covers of Rolling Stone magazine and the color lime green.

"I feel that I have an amazing opportunity to obtain a college education and am very blessed to be here at UD. This school has so much to offer and is so much more than simply a place to earn a degree that I feel somewhat responsible for passing that knowledge on to other people."

Those words are heartening to Robert Johnson, vice president for enrollment management, who knows that word-of-mouth endorsements sell the University of Dayton campus better than any glossy brochure.

"The people in the best position to tell the UD story are UD students," he said. "These blogs provide a mechanism for us to tell their story unfiltered. Prospective students get the real deal."

Contact Robert Johnson at (937) 229-3717, Marcus Robinson at (937) 229-2253, Allison Kretz at (419) 260-7635 and John Amdor at (402) 981-6529.