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Social media in higher ed

27 min read

Chris D’Orso, Associate Director of Admissions at SUNY Brockport, discusses social media in higher education, with tips on managing various school social platforms, interacting with students, and finding the right times to inject personality into your posts. Mongoose’s Mike Kochczynski hosts the conversation.

Mike: Welcome everyone to the presently unnamed Mongoose podcast. I'm your host, Mike Kochczynski and I am lucky enough to be a client success lead with Mongoose. I work with just over 70 of our nearly 400 client colleges and universities. Today we're speaking with Chris D’Orso, an Associate Director of Admissions from SUNY Brockport. Chris is a client, but we'll speak about a topic outside of our messaging platform, Cadence. We will talk about social media and higher education. Outside of higher education, Chris is a fantastic vocalist and guitarist, he's a Mets fan, a contestant from Jeopardy (who was absolutely railroaded in his only appearance). Frankly, a lot of very questionable categories that Chris ran into that evening, but most importantly he's the father of two children. So Chris, thank you so much for joining us, we're absolutely thrilled to host you. How did you get involved into social media for higher education?

Chris: I've been doing admissions stuff now for almost 20 years, and as social media grew up over the course of the last 10-12 years, I noticed through my own personal interactions that students were out there, and students were asking questions and they were sharing information about their college search. So a colleague and I at my last job, Stony Brook, we said, we need to make this a thing. We need to, Stony Brook, have a Stony Brook presence. We need to have a university presence so that we can lend some authority and debunk some myths and answer question and be a more visible online presence. So we created a voice for the university online, and it's just kinda grown since then. I feel like I've been in it since the beginning, so I know my perspective on social media is going to be very different from somebody who is maybe new to the profession, straight out of college, for whom social media has been their life from high school and back, but I think it's still a vibrant - it's clearly a vibrant - piece of the college search. It's a vibrant piece of college life, and how schools and universities and departments, and how we all use it, I think is still really, really relevant and really, really interesting.

Mike: So what sort of the day to day like then as someone who's gonna manage social media? At Stony Brook, it was really across the entire campus which is large and when you were there, certainly growing like wildfire, compared to what your day to day would be like at Brockport?

Chris: Yeah, and I think that's really interesting 'cause I don't manage social media here at Brockport, although I did do the day to day at Stony Brook and it's really interesting to see how our social media person here, Darcy, who does a really, really great job. She's younger than I am, and as such has lived it very differently than I have, and I think personally uses it very differently. So I love the way that we look at things, the Brockport accounts, look at things and the perspective and the technology that she uses. The comfort level with platforms like SnapChat that I personally don't have the same sort of comfort level with. It's really easy for social media to be all encompassing and I think that's always been the biggest challenge for me, and what I think was probably the biggest reason for me to slide up and out of social media and really more on the admissions end from a day to day, because I was really glued to my phone 24 hours a day and that is no way to live, my friend. It was ... I felt like no matter where I was, no matter what I was doing, if something happens, I felt sort of responsible for it. I was terrified that I would miss something, if there was a tweet or a Facebook post or something, I mean the Internet's a big place, and it's hard to be everywhere and I think that the day to day for many on the ground social media folks is ... It's ... There's a lot of pressure to say the least.

Mike: Yeah, and it's interesting too because in the grand scheme of things, if you're a university, and a rapper or somebody in pop culture mentions your institution in a lyric or something and you miss it ... In the grand scheme of things, you know it's not gonna force somebody not to enroll or it's not really big revenue, but you're right. There is certainly an economy of attention, so I guess how did you-

Chris: I think that's a really good point, and I apologize for cutting off your question-

Mike: No please.

Chris: But I think that was ... We had at Stony Brook, Jimmy Kimmel mentioned on his show one night and the balance on social media between branding and fun and voice is very, very tricky. The comment that Kimmel made was a joke about a study that one of our researchers had done about MBA players tweeting in the middle of the night, and it's corresponding effect on their gameplay.

Mike: What was that effect, out of curiosity?

Chris: It was bad, as you might imagine. So that was Kimmel's joke was, "We really needed to study this? This was a study that needed to happen?" He said, "What are they doing out there at Stony Brook? Shouldn't they be working on chlamydia or something?" Which I thought was hysterical, so the first thing the next morning, somebody has tweeted it overnight and I saw it first thing in the morning and I literally ran down the hall to our VP for marketing and I said, "We need to jump on this because this happened last night, there's a clip buzzin' around the Internet, now's the time to jump on it." He was really hesitant about making a chlamydia joke on university social media, so I get it. I totally get that, and the moment passed, and we never really did as much with it as I wanted to, so because everything moves so quickly, that's where that fear, if we don't jump on this now, the moment will be gone.

Mike: Now was there an opportunity you think where you did have that attention and you think you really capitalized on it?

Chris: Yeah, I think so. I think it's really ... One of the cool things about social media in the way that we used it, and still use it, even personally is getting those wins. When something pops in your search column, on TweetDeck that a student's having an issue with something and they're not necessarily attacking the college, they're just throwing it out to the ether to complain about something. I had a student one day late on a Friday tweet about a student accounts issue that had come up and she was ranting. But I saw it, so I sent her a private message and I explained who I was and I said, "Look I want to help, I want to help you get the information that you need." So she messaged me her information, I forwarded it to our student accounts person, and even over the weekend by Monday morning, her problem was solved, and that's what it's all about. That's not a tweet that you're gonna look at, at the end of the year and say, "This got X percent engagement." That's not the kind of thing that you're gonna point to in a PowerPoint as, "Hey, college president, look what we're doing," but it's the kind of stuff you should point to college president and say, "Hey look what we're doing," because the social piece of social media is really... It's easy to lose that in all the craziness that the social media is today.

Mike: How do you ... How would you train folks in higher education to adhere to that lesson?

Chris: I think it's really a matter of two things. I think it's one: listening. Just listening and being conscious of the discussion that's out there and whether you have the ability to do that yourself, whether it be through staff, and Google alerts, and TweetDeck columns, and all those kinds of things, or you're using some sort of a company that will monitor for you, a Campus Sonar or something along those lines. The listening is so very important, know what's being said to you, about you, in the media, outside the media, all of those kinds of things. Then the flip side of that is knowing your campus and knowing your school and knowing what will fly. Can you ... You wanna be funny and you wanna be quick on social media, but does your school, or if you're tweeting for a particular academic program or whatever, is that your voice, is that who you are as an organization, as a campus, as a whatever? And to know what your institutional voice is and your institutional goals, and all of those kinds of things, so that those two things will go together and they work together and that's where you grow.

Mike: Gotcha. So you mentioned taking a step back, and it relates to what you're mentioning about listening. Were there particular qualities, or you talked about misconceptions with Stony Brook, but are there particular qualities you wanted to portray about the campus or about the institution?

Chris: Stony Brook had a reputation, not totally unwarranted, for being a commuter campus. We had a large commuter population and as such the perception was that there's nothing to do on campus. So it turned out there was quite a bit to do on campus and we really wanted to make sure that we reflected that on social media and that speaks to the second half of what I mentioned earlier of knowing your campus and the kind of public face that you're trying to put out there. Our students are doing great things and every day our students are putting themselves out there in really, really amazing ways. We had a student at Brockport this spring who basically created a job for himself with NASCAR because he did an interview at Commencement that he posted online that was basically a 45 second NASCAR style commercial thanking the bank that provided his student loans and all this kind of stuff.

Student: Man, this was one tough semester that I can't thank all the guys back at the shop enough, Mom, Dad, Emma, kids and wife I don't have back at home. It was just crazy. We had the car all semester long, one where we can find a parking spot, and just all the sponsors that put everything into this. Quizlet, Netflix, Chegg, RateMyProfessor, Dunkin Donuts, Monster Energy, Credit One Bank of course, everyone who put so much into this, it's just, I mean what a victory. We're out here and now we're just trying to find a job. That's the next goal, and once we can do that, I think we're gonna have a real good bit for championship and man, I just can't thank this team enough. Everything they do, just so much. Man, what a victory.

Chris: And NASCAR picked it up and they loved it. They flew him out to a race and all this kind of stuff and he's working for one of the driving teams now. That's the kind of thing that as a college, we gotta promote the heck out of that, that's a great fun social media story. It's not the kind of thing we're gonna put on the cover of the view book, it's not the kind of thing that is gonna be ... Is gonna go out to donors, but it is the kind of thing that will have legs on social media and you've gotta be able to play that card when it happens.

Mike: So how do the different social media platforms I guess amplify the message and work independently but also together?

Chris: Yeah, that's fun. I think it’s easy to lump all the media together and it's the whole having a Facebook page is not a goal, having a Twitter is not a goal. That was something that I've been dealing with for years as we get phone calls from a department that would say, "We're gonna start an Instagram account. What do we do?" I would say, "Okay, well... Why? Basically what are you looking to do?" If you're not able to answer that question, then it's probably not worth doing. I remember when we created the university SnapChat at first years ago, it created, I sat and made this app on my phone and created the account and I called out to our grad student who was in the outer office, I said, "Hey, we created a SnapChat account." She said, "Oh that's wonderful. Why?" I said, "You know, I haven't figured that part out yet, but once we figure it out, we will be set." So you've got to get a sense of what the platforms are and how they work before you can really dive in and make it happen. I know they're all sort of overlapping in various ways in Instagram and Facebook and all those kinds of things, but they don't all do the same things, and they don't speak the same language. You can get away with stuff on Twitter, you can live tweet a basketball game or a football game, you can't Live Facebook post the same way, you can't Live Instagram it the same way, so the videos are different. I think it's a matter of figuring out where your audience is and what works. If you're a music department, you've got the ability to broadcast some of your performances, find a place where that works and maybe that's Facebook Live, maybe that's ... If you're doing that every day, that's too much, maybe it's once a week, it's sometimes a matter of trial and error in figuring out what fits.

Mike: Now you mentioned the music department and athletics and broadcasting, so how did you play peacekeeper or traffic controller, or whatever cliché you wanna use, in managing these very different accounts and very different brands all under the Stony Brook umbrella?

Chris: Well I think that's ... Here's ... You're a student, so your interaction with the campus is distinct, and if you are a student who ... One of my favorite admissions moments ever, we were doing a live text chat one night with a bunch of computer science engineering students, and so the question came in the chat was, "How is your football team?" And so one computer science student turns to his friend, and he says, "Do we have a football team?" To which his friend replied, "I don't know, do we?" And so I said, "I'll take this one guys. I'll take this one." But what athletics is doing does not impact those students at all. Clearly does not impact those students at all. They may be following the Facebook page because we're posting information about research or about job fairs or about the things that interest them, but if we swing too far, and we do a bunch of athletic stuff, that may tune them out, and so they may follow the College of Engineering's Twitter account, and they may follow the Dean's personal account, and they may follow faculty and things like that, but they're not following athletic accounts, and if they're a commuter, they're not following res life accounts, thing like that. And so, if there's something that is sort of general in nature, then yeah, get it out, and blast it out in a way that makes sense, but each individual department office, whatever, needs their own voice as well. And what Stony Brook Medicine was doing dovetailed very nicely with what Stony Brook University is doing, but the audience is not the same, and there was the occasional battle where it was, "Okay, we need to get this out across all platforms and all handles." And sometimes it just didn't make sense. It didn't make sense for medicine to promote something that was happening on the university side of campus or for athletics to promote something that had nothing to do with athletics just because it was part of the Stony Brook name. So I think the conversation's important, and we had created a users group across campus, and we met, depending on the time of year, every two or three weeks, to sorta plan and say, "Alright, what's coming? What should we be aware of? Okay it’s Homecoming Week coming up. Okay, athletics, what are you doing? Campus dining, what are you doing?" And so we can sorta play off each other and build that. But again, not everybody necessarily needs to be involved in every discussion, but the conversation needs to be there because you never want to say, "Ugh, man, I wish we'd known that you were gonna do X because we could've helped promote that," or, "We had an idea that would've helped reach a bigger audience" or whatever.

Mike: You in general, you do a great job threading a needle between being overly reverent to the particular topic and being snarky, and so many folks are just one or the other. I guess, how did you keep yourself centered, whether personally or on social media?

Chris: Well, I'm a Mets fan, and so everything I do is couched between optimism and chaos, and I think that I love the different media for lots of different reasons, and I love live tweeting stuff, as you all saw at the Mongoose ELEVATE conference last month, because it was something that I learned years ago, the importance of social media from a professional perspective. And so next month, I'm going out there, Sacramento, for the High Ed Web conference. High Ed Web's an organization that ... I joined, again using air quotes, years before I ever went to a conference because there's so much happening on the back channel that you felt like you were there. You feel like you're at the conference even though you're not because the discussion is really, really vibrant. I’ve met… There's still people who I consider close, close ... sorry, air quotes again, Twitter friends since (where the video podcast takes on a whole different thing) I consider close friends who I've literally never even met because we talk all the time online, and it's professional in lots of cases. It's discussions about trending things and topics and all of the things that make up higher ed, and ... they're folks that I feel like I know reasonably well even though we've never met in person, and Twitter's a big piece of that 'cause the discussion is so, so, again, it goes back to the social piece of social media, the back-and-forths and the interaction. It's not a fire hose. It's not just a matter of throwing information out there. That's part of it, but it's a matter of being able to respond and integrate all that together.

Mike: That makes total sense, and actually, alluding back to ELEVATE, our user retreat for those who might not know, what that is, Scott Jaschik from Inside Higher Ed really hammered home authenticity in branding and marketing, but in social media, as we know, sometimes authenticity is a cardinal sin. So how do you sort of manage projecting out a brand vs. also maintaining it in authenticity?

Chris: Well, it's the whole "you are what people say you are" kind of thing where we could tweet until we're purple about how much there is to do on campus, but if the people, our students, see us as a commuter school or they look around and they see that everybody goes home on the weekend or whatever, then that's the reality of what it is, and I think you need to be realistic about that from a professional standpoint. Personally, I feel like I'm reasonably transparent online. I think I definitely am who I say I am on most of my accounts, for better or worse. We live in a really weird time right now where everything is political, even if we don't want it to be, and that certainly has made social media a target, for better or worse. And unfortunately, in a lot of  cases, and certainly you wanna be mindful of that, but at the same time, if you're going to put yourself out there, you are who you are online. It's a piece of us that I think is an interesting challenge, particularly for young people in 2018 because they've never known anything other than that. I think it's much harder now for students who are coming through high school and college to dissociate who they are online. When I went to college 20 years ago, you could kinda reinvent yourself because there was no ... you didn't know any of these folks until you got there, and you don't have that luxury now. I went from being a big old math nerd in high school to literally being voted Homecoming King my senior year of college, and friends of mine from high school were like, "What?!" That made no sense. The disconnect was so severe for them, but I was able to do that because I was able to say, "You know what? I need to step outside my comfort zone a little bit," and it's a lot harder to do that now because by the time students get here in August, their history is already out there, and their future roommate has looked 'em up, and everything they do in the class of '22, '23 Facebook group is part of it now, and so the challenges are very, very different for everybody now. Students, parents, everybody.

Mike: And putting on the admissions hat, if you will, in your role as an Associate Director of Admissions, is that fair game to students? If students join a Facebook group, and you see them do something questionable or worse in your SUNY Brockport accepted students' Facebook group, is that fair game to possibly do something with their application or contact them or what have you?

Chris: I think that's an awesome question, and I think it's something that we really struggle with, and I think the one caveat that you put in there is "in the accepted student Facebook group". If they're coming into a space that is a college space, I think we're sort of duty-bound to due process, but to make sure that people are aware. We had a student several years ago in our incoming student group who posted all the time about partying. All the time. It was just his sole function in life was partying. And at first, it was like, "Okay, yeah, we get it," but there literally came a point over the summer where I finally had to buzz my colleague in res life, and I was like, "Hey, I just wanna let you know. You got a student coming in. He seems like a good dude, but this appears to be his life, and you may just wanna keep an eye on him."

Mike: Yeah, put a really good RA with him, you know?

Chris: Right, exactly. And I don't know what happened past that, and that's one of the challenges of admissions and also one of the reasons why I like social media is you kinda stay connect with people, but we turn the page. Once students get to campus, we turn the page and look to the next class. But I think it is fair game if it's gonna be in a space where the college or university is. If you're gonna respond to a tweet or a Facebook post with something obnoxious or a threat or whatever, well then yeah, we're gonna act on that. Are we searching all of our students? No. You can't. I think it's totally unrealistic to do that, and I know it's one of those things that comes up a lot and has always come up a lot of, "Oh, there's such-and-such study that says X% of admissions counselors are searching for their applicants on social media." No, I don't think we're doing that. Are there some schools that will? Probably, I guess. But we don't have the time or the head space to manage that. For students who apply for jobs, are we doing that? Yeah, that's a smaller pool, but from an admissions perspective, no, I think there's only so much that we can manage.

Mike: Makes sense. Now, the more you put yourself out there though either as personally or as a brand or higher education brand, obviously the more likelihood you might run into trolls. So have you had experience with that sort of behavior, and how have you handled it either with your personal account or with, in this case, Stony Brook?

Chris: I think that it comes down to listening and knowing and understanding that sometimes people just wanna rant, and not everything needs a response. It doesn't mean it gets ignored. And so our VP for Marketing always said he'd rather know about something that amounts to nothing than not know about something that amounts to something. He said, "I never wanna hear about something from the president's office before I hear about it from my team."  And I thought that was sort of reasonable, and so there would be times where somebody would complain about such-and-such and whatever, and I would just kinda screenshot it and copy the link and send it off and say, "Hey, just letting you know this happened. I'm ignoring it, but just to let you know," because the possibility always exists that the media picks it up or a donor sees it or whoever, parents, anybody. I was saying with the Internet, everything's sort of out there, and so you don't want to ignore things that have merit, but sometimes people will just rage, and you kind of let it roll off, and you can't take all this stuff personally. It's very easy to take social stuff personally, and that was one of the things I learned over the years of doing this is ... they're not yelling at me. They're yelling at the university 'cause they're angry at their professor or they're angry at parking because they got another ticket or whatever. They're not angry at me. They just wanna rant, and that's fine. Pass it along if you need to and make a note and save stuff, but you don't need to be on top of every little thing.

Mike: Absolutely. You were sort of a, dare I say, an originator. You're part of sort of a group that brought in social media to higher education, so how did you originally balance sort of, to use the Stony Brook example, Hofstra does this and they're near us, and they're semi of a competitor, and so now we have to do something similar with blazing your own new territory?

Chris: Yeah, it's one of the - which is why I think it makes sense that social media was very intimately tied with the admissions process, at least the way it was when it started because the things that we do from an admissions perspective aren't necessarily the things that we want our competitors doing or vice versa. The things that our competitors are doing aren't the same things that we can or should be doing. I think having healthy, fun rivalries on social media is good. SUNY always does the Mascot Madness every spring, and so all of the university and college accounts would sorta go back and forth with a little friendly competition among all the mascots, and that's great, having that sorta stuff is fun. I think you need to be aware. Like anything, you need to be aware of what everybody else is doing, but so for example, to use the Kaepernick example again, just because Nike did this, does that mean that Reebok now needs to be just as controversial or more controversial or ... I don't know, you know? Do they need to know what Nike's doing? Yes, absolutely. Like do we need to know what the other SUNY colleges in our area and the other Western New York schools are doing? Yes, absolutely. So we're aware of what's out there, but I think you can't copy what other schools are doing as much as just really make it your own. And that sorta goes back to the whole meme thing too. Do you try to jump on a trend and do something funny or flip or whatever. If you're not doing it well, or you're not first, or you're doing a meme that was three days ago, three days is a long time, in Internet land. And it's not gonna have the same punch that you think it might, based on timeliness and everything else that goes into it. So it's a matter of being aware, but not necessarily copying, necessarily. Just adapting.

Mike: That makes absolute sense. Now, speaking of sort of blazing new trail, it seems like Voice and Alexas on campus and things like that is starting to become a trend. Does it have lasting power, or is it sort of like the 3D printer or Google Glass or one of these sort of short-lived fads?

Chris: I think voice is so much of it, because I think that it speaks to again, what social media is. It is conversational, and one of the great quotes that I use in a lot of my conference presentations and has always stayed in my head, came from a podcast. Michael Feenan, who works out in the Midwest, I don't remember the quote exactly, but it was something along the lines of, "Everything we build, everything we do on the Web is getting in the way of two people talking." Because ultimately, that's what it is. It's me here at Brockport, talking to a student about whatever, their admission, or talking about a concern that they're having about res life, or about whatever. And we can have all the great interactive tools, and bots, and all these kinds of Alexa skills and all these things, but if it gets in the way of the conversation, if it gets in the way of the flow of information, then it's not effective and it's not doing what you want it to do. And if your audience, whether that be students or parents or the community or fans, if it's an athletics account, if they don't feel that what you're doing and saying is authentic, then they've got no reason to follow you and no reason to engage with you. So that's what made the UNBC Basketball thing so great this spring. It was fun, and they had fun with it, and it was authentic, and it was real. And they were goofy and they clapped back at ESPN and all that, and that was great. I loved that.

Mike: Are you still following them, by the way?

Chris: I am, actually.

Mike: Yeah, me too. What won me over ... I was sort of watching that night. I'm a huge college sports fan, in general, and I think what did it for me was there was a tweet about, "By the way, if you're not so much interested in sports but in academics, we are a relatively medium-sized public school."

Chris: Yes, exactly, yes.

Mike: Which was great.

Chris: Yeah, they played it up, which was awesome. What was really funny about that, personally, was two years ago, when Stony Brook basketball made it to the tournament for the first time, I did the same thing. And it was on a much smaller scale. We didn't win an NCAA tournament game, but just making it to the tournament was a very big deal for us, and I got emotional, because that's what I do. And so my emotion came through in the university tweets, and we got a decent amount of online press about it. And so when that happened with UNBC, I got a ton of messages. Friends were like, "Oh my God! Look! This guy's doing what you did. They do what you did." I'm like, "Well, no, he's doing it better, because he's got a much bigger audience and he absolutely is doing it up." And I had a great conversation with him a couple weeks later, on Admissions Live, about using social and being fun and all that kind of stuff. And they did it. They did it right. And they were able to intersperse, like you said, the fun and the athletics with, "Hey, this is who we are. This is what UMBC is, as a college." And I don't know what their application numbers are this year, but I bet they got a dump.

Mike: How do you ... Monetize (such a corporate-y, not higher ed word) but I guess how do you capture that sort of enthusiasm and authenticity and turn it into something that is measurable on a campus or for trustees or presidents or whoever might be at an institution?

Chris: Well, I think that's where you need to let the people who are on the ground run with it and have fun with it and be social. It's very easy to make it a corporate mouthpiece, and you're putting out press releases and you're posting photos and whatever, and that's fine. But the folks who do social well, like Jet Blue - Jet Blue does social so well - and I was flying once and I was delayed, and the rental car account I was going close. And I sent an angry tweet to Jet Blue, like they can do anything about the weather. And I just wound up having a nice little conversation in the middle of the night with whoever was running the Jet Blue account, and I was like, "Hey, can you pick up my rental car for me?" And they were like, "No, we can't actually do that." And I knew it wasn't gonna go anywhere. There was nothing I could do. I couldn't get the plane there any faster, but just being able to send a couple of quick messages back and forth with someone from the airline just made my night better. And social media should make people's lives better. I see a lot of complaints today, like, "Oh, on Twitter, it's a cesspool and it's crazy, and whatever." Well then, you're following the wrong people.

Mike: Right.

Chris: Follow people who you want to engage with and who you want to interact with. And as I said, I'm a Mets fan, but there are a number of Mets accounts that I don't follow any more, because they put out stuff that I don't care about, you know?

Mike: Right.

Chris: So let it go, and it's ... I almost said the Tom and Jerry thing. It's the Ben and Jerry's thing. If it isn't fun, why do it? That's my mantra for social. It's supposed to be fun, and if you're not having fun with it, then you're not doing it right.

Mike: That's great. And you mentioned UMBC. You mentioned Jet Blue. Are there any other schools or brands that you really look at their social media and you say, "People who are in this industry should follow them, because they're doing it all the right way?"

Chris: Yeah, I'm openly jealous. My colleagues at the University of Florida do a really fantastic job, and they've got a big audience, which is nice. Who else does it particularly well? There are a lot of really good ones. And I think everybody tackles their own audience their own way. I don't necessarily follow the UF accounts, but I follow my friends, and so when I see the things that they're doing that they're doing well, I'm excited by that, and I like to see when schools are doing it well. And then being able to say, "What can we take away from that?" Again, not to copy it, but what's the takeaway there that we can apply here that kind of makes sense?

Mike: If you don't mind me asking sort of advice on a personal level, in terms of hosting, is there anything you would say to somebody who's relatively new to doing this sort of hosting work?

Chris: So when I would host the Admissions Live shows, I would have, like you had, your sort of standard list of eight or 10 questions, topics you want to cover, kind of thing. The challenge there was that it's a live show, and it's not. You don't have the ability to edit afterwards. But I think the tricky thing is getting ... I think you did a great job of getting through the questions that you want to ask, but at the same time, responding to what your guests are saying, trying not to think two questions ahead and being like, "Oh, wait, that's a really salient point and I'm gonna skip ahead five questions because you mentioned this." Or "I'm gonna skip back five questions because I asked this question 20 minutes ago, but I think this is a better answer, so let's dig a little deeper into that." And so I always told my guests ... I tell my guests on Higher Ed Live that there may be times when I mute myself or I'm not looking at the camera. It's because I'm frantically scribbling notes about something that I want to follow up with. And it's not that I'm ignoring you; it's quite the opposite, actually. Or it's that because it's a live show, I'm checking Twitter and I'm seeing, oh, there's a question coming in, or whatever. So sort of being present in the moment and balancing that with all the questions you want to get through.

Mike: All right. Well, before I let you go, I'm a huge Jeopardy fan, so I have to ask, what was the experience like? Did you take any lessons from it? And I mentioned you were railroaded, and to give context to anybody listening, you ran into a two-day champ who was an Air Force Colonel, and you had a patent attorney, as well.

Chris: Yep.

Mike: And it seemed like the categories were all ... Like, I remember specifically, there was a question about, this is the new jet that Boeing's gonna release. And I remember thinking, "Come on!" You know? What are the odds?

Chris: Yeah, military questions and all that. It was bananas. So it was the dream come true, because I've been a game show junkie since I was a kid, and so it was totally a dream come true. And they tape five shows a day.

Mike: Wow.

Chris: And so my show was the fourth that day, so I was able to watch a number of shows, and I watched both of Dave's first two wins. And he had gotten a lot of military questions in those first two games, also. And so I said, "You know what? He's ripe. He's ripe for the picking. The time is right. I'm ready." I was sure that the categories were gonna come up good, and they didn't. They came up “Forests” and they came up “Art.” And one of my favorite-

Mike: You were like, "College mascots. College mascots, please."

Chris: Exactly, right? No, not so much. And so going into Double Jeopardy, there was a polka category.

Mike: That's right.

Chris: And so my dad flew out to California, my dad and my stepmom and my sister, to watch. And so I was in last place going into Double Jeopardy, and so they said, "All right, Chris, you can pick first." And so I said, "All right, what the heck? Let's go for Polka for 400." And my dad said he jumped out of his skin. He was like, "Why? He knows nothing about polka." But I'm like, "You know what? You just gotta go for it, at that point." And it was such a cool experience, and I still talk to Dave Belote. He was a five-day champion. He's a brilliant, brilliant guy. And it was super cool. And it's something I've been talking about for nine years now. I'm a little tiny piece of history, which is really cool.

Mike: That's awesome.

Chris: But yeah, loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Mike: And I've heard that really, the buzzer behavior is huge, that if folks learn the buzzer, that's half the game.

Chris: It's absolutely half the game. Even Ken Jennings said that. It was half the game. And he even said that that's part of the reason why he did as well as he did, was because he had the timing down. So much of it is timing, and Dave Belote was a fighter pilot. He knew how to hit the button. And obviously, you gotta be smart. You have to know your stuff, but you do also have to have the timing right on. And there's a lot of luck involved. The categories, too. If you happen to get categories that you know, then you're set. People say, "Oh, did you get the Final Jeopardy question right?" And I didn't, because I just totally blanked. Not that it would have mattered, because Dave had run away, but it's fast. It's very, very fast. And if you watch the clip of the show, Dave answers the first five questions correct.

Mike: Oh, yeah.

Chris: He jumps out right away.

Mike: He gets the Daily Double, too, I thought, like, relatively early.

Chris: Right, and so then I finally jump in and I get one right. You can see me exhale. I'm like, "Okay."

Mike: I'm on the board.

Chris: "I'm all right. I got in. I'm not gonna finish with zero. I'm good." Over the course of my time at Stoney Brook, we had five of us on the show.

Mike: Oh, wow.

Chris: All five of us finished in last place.

Mike: Oh, geez.

Chris: Although, of the five of us, I finished with the most money.

Mike: There you go.

Chris: So I took that small solace, that even though we all ... You get a thousand dollars for third place. So even though I only won a thousand bucks, at least I felt like I did not embarrass myself on national television. And I got to mention my kids, which was fun. Like, it's kind of cool.

Mike: That's good. Well, Chris, thank you so much for all of your time today. All of us are really, really appreciative of it. I guess until next time, we'll talk soon, then.

Chris: Awesome. Thanks, guy.

Mike: Take care, Chris.

Follow the Mongoose podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher, and Spotify.


chris-headshotsChris D'Orso

Associate Director of Admissions
SUNY Brockport

headshot-mikeMike Kochczynski

Assistant Director of Client Success


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