The Days of Opportunity program was developed to proactively explore faculty research and expertise to be highlighted and curated in anticipation of emerging topics of significance. This approach not only increases the volume of faculty experts we are able to feature but also assists in illustrating the diversity of thought and variety of unique perspectives across our university, enhancing awareness of imperative research projects and promoting the breadth and depth of our academic excellence. Additionally, this collaborative effort serves as a mechanism to promote the wide array of resources offered through the Office of the Vice President for Communications and the Public Engagement and Impact Initiative.
Conceptualized in 2019 during a listening tour of deans and leadership from U-M’s 19 schools and colleges, the Days of Opportunity program enables UMSocial to build a vast content library that highlights public engagement activity and places dynamic assets back in the hands of units and featured faculty. Conducted in partnership with campus communicators, the interviews are scheduled to align not only with trending online topics but key areas of institutional emphasis and prominent interdisciplinary themes. This approach allows us to more frequently generate and publish content that will garner the attention of our peers, our target demographics, and the general public.
In addition to addressing the needs of our collaborative partners, each interview is individualized to produce an environment that enables faculty to feel comfortable explaining their research. At times, this means altering methods of capture from video to photography, animation, or audio. Our cohesive yet flexible strategy allows us to collect a multitude of assets for an array of channels and the Public Engagement and Impact website in the most efficient manner possible.
Content included in these Days of Opportunity packages includes audio for our popular Michigan Minds podcast, along with complementary videos published on YouTube and Facebook, articles for LinkedIn, vertical assets for Instagram stories, animations, still images, etc. The first sessions were executed in collaboration with U-M’s School of Public Health (SPH) and School of Information (SI).
“In partnership with the University of Michigan social media team, the Days of Opportunity program gave us an excellent chance to highlight the innovative work, and unique voices, of our diverse, interdisciplinary Michigan public health researchers,” says Eric Zanotti, media and communications specialist at SPH. “In just a couple of afternoons, we were able to capture a wealth of quality content that will be used across both University of Michigan and School of Public Health social media channels, underlining the contributions of our faculty members to the field of public health, to the university, and to the State of Michigan. The content has already been instrumental in promoting a large research project on national platforms.”
Additional Days of Opportunity on the horizon include collaborations with the Institute for Social Research on challenges facing women in higher education, pivotal issues in an election year with the Ford School of Public Policy, the health and well-being of families with Michigan Medicine, and emerging topics in the humanities with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. These partnerships not only expand U-M’s content offerings but also continue to build upon our strong relationships with faculty.
The initial reaction from faculty and U-M online communities has been overwhelmingly positive. Participants in the program have been impressed with the overall experience, the number of high-quality assets, and the myriad outlets where the information is promoted. Beyond web and social, publications such as the University Record have also taken to more frequently including videos and stories specifically derived from Days of Opportunity.
Increasing impact, elongating story arcs, and empowering faculty with new ways to share their research more widely, the Days of Opportunity program is inspiring enthusiasm among U-M researchers to share their expertise with their peers and personal networks. Juan Cole, Professor of History at the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts had this to say: “the team at UMSocial swung into action promptly when an issue on which I had expertise hit the headlines. The video and audio interviews they produced, with unfailing professionalism, allowed me to enter directly into the national debate.”
As we move through the coming year, the Public Engagement and Impact Initiative and UMSocial team are excited to able to continue cultivating this innovative effort that creates an enhanced sense of connection to our institution and a platform for thoughtful insights and important contributions toward society.