Centers for Excellence

School of Communication & the Arts Launches Center for Social Media

Marist College

Inaugural speaker is former White House staffer Kelsey Donohue '13 

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY (Oct. 3, 2017) - Marist’s School of Communication & the Arts has launched the Center for Social Media, adding another distinctive educational experience to the School’s offerings.  The Center will educate students about industry-leading practices in social media listening, engagement, influence, and analytics.  Located in a state-of-the-art command center in Lowell Thomas 154, the Center features seven flat-screen TVs displaying real-time social conversations and analytics powered by Salesforce’s Social Studio and Command Center platforms, giving students access to the same technology used by communication professionals to turn social media insights into action.  Marist is one of only six colleges nationally using these Salesforce platforms for educational purposes.

Directed by Senior Professional Lecturer of Public Relations Jennie Donohue, the Center will host a variety of activities during the academic year, including a guest speaker series and themed workshops.  Said Professor Donohue, “We’re so excited to launch the Center for Social Media this year.  Our goal is to give communication students greater access to professionals, technology, and experiences to help them learn firsthand how companies can glean insights and build relationships via social media that deliver results.” 

On September 25, Marist alumna Kelsey Donohue ’13 kicked off the Center’s speaker series by sharing insights from her previous role as Assistant Press Secretary to First Lady Michelle Obama.  In a lecture entitled “Storytelling with Snapchat: Lessons from Michelle Obama’s Digital Strategy,” Kelsey recounted the experience she gained as a member of the First Lady’s communication team, including launching the First Lady’s Snapchat account.  “The First Lady was an active partner in her communications and wanted to use social media to peel back the curtain on the White House.  Snapchat allowed her to connect with a teenage audience for her Let Girls Learn campaign, which focused on the struggles faced by young women around the world to get an education,” said Kelsey.

For a self-described “girl from Long Island with no political connections,” Kelsey’s stint in the White House seemed unattainable at first.  Her career in Washington, DC began when she tweeted at a U.S. Department of Education official to express interest in an internship.  This led to a whirlwind of roles at the U.S. Departments of Education and State before ultimately joining the First Lady’s office at the White House in 2015.  Coincidentally enough, as a Marist senior in Jennie Donohue’s class, Kelsey had written a mock communication plan for Mrs. Obama.  She brought that plan with her when she interviewed in the East Wing several years later.  She got the job. 

Kelsey also advised students on using Snapchat and other social media platforms to connect with their audiences and build community in authentic and meaningful ways.  “Each social media platform is different, but using multiple platforms enables you to reach different audiences,” said Kelsey.  “I also recommend pursuing strategic partnerships with social media influencers to further leverage your message.”  To measure success, she looks at analytics such as views and tracks earned media.  Now working with tech companies and executives in Silicon Valley, she follows almost every journalist and influencer in the areas relevant to her job. 

Kelsey credits the Marist community with preparing her for the considerable career success she has enjoyed.  She points to mentors like Jennie Donohue, as well as experiences on-campus with First Year Programs and Marist Ambassadors.  She added, “Being an orientation leader and a tour guide taught me how to handle myself and answer tough questions.  I also learned how to be a good manager.”  As a final piece of advice to students, Kelsey encouraged them to tap into mentors and lean on the contacts in their Marist network as they confront professional challenges.  The Marist community is “unlike any other,” she added.  Once established in a career, “make sure to help reach back and help younger alumni.  Pay it forward.”

Future guest speakers at the Center for Social Media include Adam Bryant, the Emmy Award-winning Director of Digital Media at AMC Networks, who will deliver a talk on October 18 entitled “Speaking Your Audience’s Language: The Heart of Digital Storytelling.”  In addition, Mark Schaefer, best-selling social media marketing author, college educator, keynote speaker, and strategy consultant will share his thoughts on “Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age” on November 8.

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