Being a college student is difficult: maintaining a school/life balance, time management, becoming increasingly independent, managing a good mental/physical health, and planning for the future are among some of the common concerns and struggles of college students. It can get overwhelming– feeling alone–like no one is sharing the exact same concerns, or feeling that your voice isn’t being heard. The good news is that so many students (myself included) have experienced this. Every University, Saint Joseph’s University included, falls short of truly covering, hearing, and sharing every aspect of students’ concerns, opinions, tips, and ideas that can help make college a better experience. Even simple improvements that can be made on campus or study tips: just having a platform to speak out and share can bring attention to topics that otherwise would be forgotten or overlooked. I created the Instagram account SJUspeaks to serve as an outlet for students of Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA to share their pressing opinions, concerns, tips, and ideas publicly, with the goal of receiving attention from an abundance of other students, faculty and staff at SJU.
I originally came up with the idea to start SJUspeaks as a cause-based Instagram account for a COM (Visual Design) course my Sophomore year because I was constantly hearing my roommates complain about SJU campus-related issues. Specifically, Public Safety’s reliability (or lack thereof), the unreliable shuttle services, lack of parking, and the poor quality of Campion’s food. I thought to myself, “why tell me these things and not do anything about it, when you could share it publicly?” So many students share these exact same concerns and complaints… The more they are shared, the more attention they will receive, and then will lead towards change. Instead of just focusing on negative complaints and concerns, I decided to frame SJUspeaks as a broader platform to also share helpful tips or general ideas that could help improve campus life or campus safety. I learned things I never would have known otherwise through students sending in DMs to be posted: like Public Safety’s shift changes for example, or how to better plan for course registration. Whether students are sending in concerns to bring attention to common issues, or sending in tips to help out their fellow peers, this account serves as a platform to publicly share.
This project is of great interest to me because I am particularly passionate about graphic design, social media management, content creation, communication and interaction with all kinds of people. The management and creation of this account will continue to develop and grow my skills. It opens up pathways for me to connect with a greater variety of students, faculty and staff on campus, become more involved, make connections, and grow key skills for my future career field: potentially social media management or graphic design.
My project will largely take the form of the existing SJUspeaks Instagram account (@sjuspeaks) and an updated/modified brand book with a fresh, new design, branding, and clarification of the account’s purpose and goals. My plan is to completely revamp the Instagram account by completely changing the logo, color scheme, fonts, filters/presets, image style, and more. I aim to complete 3-4 weekly posts that will be carefully planned to fit a new unified aesthetic and will be scheduled a week in advance via google sheets. Content will be scheduled to be posted during peak interaction times via the account’s insights (viewable as a public Instagram account). I aim to grow my following by at least 15-20% by the end of the semester, and increase interaction among my content in the form of views, likes, and comments. I also aim to incorporate a link to a google form (with the option to be anonymous) for students to submit their comments/concerns/tips/ideas for SJUspeaks to post. Included in this form will be an additional link to a consent form that authorizes their words to be posted. I would like to get a flier with a QR code that links this google form approved to hang up around campus to get more people involved in submitting their opinions and growing the audience of SJUspeaks. For the weekly posts, I would like to incorporate a series called “Tuesday Tips” in which every Tuesday’s post will include tips from SJU students (to avoid the entire Instagram being complaints), and short informal video interviews to be posted on Thursdays. All forms of posts will be complete with subtitles for accessibility, captions, ALT text, and hashtags as necessary. I aim to schedule two “photoshoot” dates over the course of the semester that will be devoted to taking pictures specifically for the account. I aim to have a once-a-month Instagram live discussion with SJU students as well. Finally, I aim to make a final deliverable: the brand book. This will be a recreation of the original brand/account guide with updated information, images, and branding that will be completed at the end of the semester. My project allows students to be fully immersed in the account; contributing with their ideas, comments, etc. The account is completely student-focused–I am just providing a stylised and cohesive platform for them to share publicly.
While SJUspeaks seems similar to Start Talking SJU (@starttalkingsju), it is different because it will cover a variety of separate topics rather than specific ones that spark continuous conversation over the course of multiple posts. Start Talking SJU focused in the past on very heavy topics like COVID-19, and confronting intolerance, racism, sexism, and other forms of hate on campus. My vision for SJUspeaks moving forward is definitely for it to be a more casual, lighthearted platform for students to share with the option of remaining anonymous. There will also be an even mix of photo, video, and graphics versus content being largely based on video interviews.
Audience and Impact:
The primary audience of SJUspeaks is current (and potentially former) SJU student young adults in their early 2os. These will be the people who are contributing their comments/concerns/tips and ideas to be posted on the account. I envision the secondary audience to be SJU faculty, staff, and even potentially parents of students who will be able to view the content posted and become increasingly aware of the SJU environment (potential changes that should be made, how students are becoming successful at SJU, etc).
I believe that these respective audiences will be extremely interested in this project and that it will lead to a large impact if it reaches the right people. Specifically in terms of concerns, hopefully the account will continue to reach faculty and staff, and important organizations on campus like SJU senate (which the account has in the past). Last year, there was even a senate open forum meeting held to discuss ways to improve public safety and the shuttle service due to the influx of complaints and attention brought to the topic by SJUspeaks. I hope to continue to facilitate change like this through topics brought to the forefront publicly by the students who contribute. This project matters for the betterment of SJU as an organization, students as individuals, and the student body as a whole.
I have a lot of experience in the realms of social media management and graphic design. I have been managing my own personal social media for years, including a professional princess Instagram account (@princessnataliap) where I help to promote myself as an independent contractor princess performer for two separate companies in Maryland and PA/NJ. This account has grown immensely since the beginning; now at over 2,000 followers and hundreds of views on reels and TikToks. I also was elected the PR/Social Media chair of the SJU City Belles all-female presenting a Capella group (@sjucitybelles) on campus for two consecutive years, and I continue to manage our social media accounts, mainly Instagram and TikTok. I single-handedly design graphics, curate content, organize photoshoots, edit photos, plan out posts, and maintain a unified visual aesthetic for the City Belles Instagram, which I have completely improved since first elected. I specialize in the design of all posters, flyers, advertisements, merchandise and other branding material and am responsible for the management and distribution of these as well. I also managed the SJU Communications and Art department Instagram accounts (@sjucomm & @sjugallery) my Freshman and Sophomore years as a work study job. I managed both of the department’s Instagram and other social media accounts and was responsible for the design of posters, graphics, and videos for the promotion of internships, school events, and COM/Art classes open for registration.
Probably the most important and beneficial prior experience I have is my past internship with Philly PR Girl in Philadelphia, PA. Last spring, I had the opportunity to be their Social Media Assistant Intern, where I experienced working alongside the Digital Media Coordinator to create original social media content for a variety of clients. I helped to plan out posting schedules over a month in advance, write captions, edit photos, and more. I communicated with clients about their social media visions and goals, engaged with followers, analyzed, and monitored growth. I helped to manage various (real business) client social media accounts, while also aiding in photography, researching trends/growth tactics, and creating Instagram reels, TikToks and simple animations. This internship taught me how current professionals run social media and greatly improved my skills.
This project will challenge me to become more connected and aware of common concerns and opinions from a wide range of students on campus, as well as challenge me to experience the level of planning and commitment it takes to run such an involved social media account. It will also expand my creativity and skills in the design of completely new branding, media, and content.
As a Communications/Digital Media studies major with a minor in Graphic Design, I have taken nearly every SJU Communications and Graphic Design-related course offered thus far. I am well-versed in my knowledge and experience from these courses and my project is central to ideas and skills I previously learned. This project is a continuation and improvement of one I started my Sophomore year (but has been idle since then), and will expand upon my original ideas for the account, as previously discussed above.
To complete this project, I intend to continue to utilize the Adobe Suite based on previous knowledge from my courses, especially Illustrator, Photoshop, Lightroom, Audition & Premiere Pro. I also plan to use Canva for some graphics (also used in previous classes) which is a very helpful tool for quick content and provides multiple templates for ideas. I may also use equipment from the COM gear room such as a DSLR camera (photography), zoom recorder, SD cards, and LAV mics for videography, which I learned how to operate through my Digital Field Methods course. I will post on the social media platform Instagram, of which I have much experience using through various college courses, internships and personal experience. Other software includes but is not limited to UNUM, my iPhone, Google Sheets and Google Forms.
In terms of research, I will definitely need to be active and intentional about becoming more involved in campus life and the current student body. While students will likely come to me with their comments, I will also need to do work to reach out and facilitate conversations for content. I will need to prepare effective interview questions, and interact with students I may have never met before. I will also need to refresh my photography and videography/sound editing skills for content and research times that work for both myself and the participants for interviews and photoshoots. I will need to revisit how to create a Lightroom preset and use this in my photography, along with specific Adobe skills I may need to learn via YouTube tutorials as well. I aim to also research similar accounts or mentor accounts that will help to develop ideas on how to improve the way I run SJUspeaks. I also would need to research articles on how to better engage students, and see if there are existing articles on common SJU student concerns, statistics, tips, and more that could be potential ideas for the account.
Obstacles and Resources:
I do not foresee any major obstacles in completing this project besides the obstacle of time. I am an extremely busy person as it is, and with such a time-consuming project, I am a little bit worried about this. However, I am very passionate about this account and my ideas for this project, and whenever I feel this way about something, I go all-in. I will ensure that I set aside time to make this project successful and complete the goals I have for it.
Another obstacle may be lack of student participation. While I can hope students continue to send in DMs, complete google forms, and be interested in Instagram live streams and interviews, I do not know for sure. I may have to coax or encourage, or be more active about reaching out to students. However, I believe that there are definitely a lot of SJU students that care and would like their voices to be heard, so I hope I can get together enough media content with a diverse group.
Another goal of mine is diversity– SJU is already not particularly diverse, which may be an obstacle. When it comes to interviews and participation, I want to be active about including everyone and ensure the account reflects that.
Updated Tentative Project Timeline:
Feb 5-Feb 13: Begin background research and complete consent form template. Draft new branding, logo and Instagram aesthetic vision and begin composing a rough draft brand book & rough drafts of deliverables like stickers, posters/flyers on the adobe suite.
Feb 13-17: Continue working on branding, logo and aesthetic vision. Continue composing the brand book & deliverables like stickers, posters/flyers on the adobe suite. Create a monthly posting calendar in google sheets with a tentative posting schedule including a “changes coming soon” post displaying the new branding to be posted the following week. Create and embed google form & consent form in Instagram bio.
Feb 17-24: Begin taking photos around campus (with permissions) and create a Lightroom preset. Plan and recruit students for the first official photo shoot date. Plan and recruit students for video interviews. Plan a date for the first Instagram Live in March. Story posts throughout the week. All content scheduled on the monthly calendar. Post “changes coming soon” graphic and 2-3 story posts indicating the account is back up and running by the end of the week.
Feb 24-March 3: Facilitate photoshoot with at least 5 participants. Facilitate at least 3 interviews. Edit new content and incorporate new photos into the brand book. Finalize brand book and promo materials by the end of the week: ensure they meet expectations.
March 3-March 10: Post graphic encouraging SJU students to submit their comments/concerns/tips/ideas and start boosting account engagement (following more accounts, liking posts, etc). Create content and plan 3-4 posts via the calendar for the next week including content for the first “Tip Tuesday” and interview post. Submit sticker order, print flyers, print posters, etc.
March 10-17: Post 3-4 times according to weekly plan using new photography and video content scheduled on calendar. Create content and plan for the following week on the calendar. Begin posting and distributing stickers, flyers/posters around campus. Begin planning for the next photoshoot, interview, and Instagram live dates. Facilitate the first Instagram live by the end of the week. Story posts throughout the week. Boost engagement.
March 17-24: Have the next photoshoot, interview, and Instagram Live dates set and post 3-4 times according to plan, but take a second to enjoy spring break, don’t go crazy. Create content and plan for the following week on the calendar.
March 24-31: Facilitate photoshoot (5+ participants) and interviews (3+ participants) this week. Post 3-4 times according to the weekly plan. Create content and plan for the following week. Story posts throughout the week. Boost engagement. Continue posting and distributing stickers, flyers/posters around campus.
March 31-April 7: Post 3-4 times according to weekly plan using new photography and video content. Create content and plan for the following week on the calendar. Story posts throughout the week. Monitor and record the March insights/growth. Continue to boost engagement.
April 7-14: Post 3-4 times according to weekly plan. Story posts throughout the week. Boost engagement. Create content and plan for the following week on the calendar. Begin final report of student submissions to be delivered to SJU senate, reslife, etc.
April 14-21: Post 3-4 times according to weekly plan. Story posts throughout the week. Boost engagement. Create content and plan for the following week on the calendar. Continue final report of student submissions to be delivered to SJU senate, reslife, etc.
April 21-April 28: Post 3-4 times according to weekly plan. Story posts throughout the week. Boost engagement. Create content and plan for the following week on the calendar. Continue final report of student submissions to be delivered to SJU senate, reslife, etc.Facilitate the 2nd Instagram Live.
April 28-May 5: Post 3-4 times according to weekly plan. Story posts throughout the week. Boost engagement. Create content and plan for the following week on the calendar. Ensure the brand book is updated and finalized & get it printed. Finish the final report and document account growth via insights. Prepare for presentations.