Reflections on My First Year at Coastal Carolina University

It is funny. Often times you can look back on a period of time and not quite know if it flew by or seemed to last. If you are like me, sometimes you end up deciding it was a little of both. Today I celebrate my one year anniversary at Coastal Carolina University. For the most part, the last 365 days passed quickly. But then I realize that next week I will cover my fourth commencement and it makes me feel like I have been around campus for a little longer.

This is my one year anniversary photo!

This is my one year anniversary photo!

On May 1, 2014, I reported for my first day at Coastal Carolina. I spent that Thursday in new employee orientation learning about policies and procedures. It was an uneventful and low key day. That would be the last one of those. From the end of that initial day on out I had the opportunity to go full speed ahead and that is exactly what I did. I arrived on campus just before the start of graduation week and went right into covering the craziness of it. I covered a lot of events and met a lot of people. Those first ten or so days really helped set the tone for my first year.

My rookie debut at CCU was a good one. Yes, it was successful. Our social channels grew exponentially, #CCUSocialMedia became a brand, we won an award, and we received far more media coverage than I could ever imagine. But that is all I want to say about job performance. My one year reflection blog post is much more than that.

What I want to really hit on is what a good fit this position has been. I came from a job where I wore a ton of different hats and had little free time. For the past year I have showed up for work at a place where my focus is much more defined and my time out of the office much more adequate.

From the start I said I took this job because I could concentrate on social media. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t grown in other areas. Although I might not have 15 different responsibilities to tend to on a given day like at Montana, I have been able to embrace a diverse set of opportunities that improved me as a professional. Encouraged to create my own news show segment, assigned to write for our alumni magazine, requested to serve on working groups, and asked to help out on search committees, I was enabled to expand my reach. Aside from running our social media program, I relished these additional roles.

Another part of the fit has been the energy and culture at CCU. Our university is growing, both in terms of physical structures and student enrollment. We are an institution on the rise and I wanted to be a piece of that. Additionally, and I truly mean it when I say this, Coastal is just different. We are built on customer service and this attitude is reflected from the top down. There is a pride and a vibe here that is special, one that I relate to and embrace. Our “Feel the Teal” mission motivates me at work each day.

Most importantly, this arrangement has worked because of the people. It all starts out with our Vice President of University Communication who had the guts to hire me. Bill Plate brought me from Missoula to Myrtle Beach and I am so glad he did. He had the vision and rationality to know that a social media position was needed at CCU and he made it a reality. So many other people helped me (and continue to help me) after Bill and I wish I could recognize them all. Although this is not possible I do want to thank a few people really quickly. Thanks to our administrative assistant Kim Harper for helping me with pretty much every office task and organizational logistic you could think of. Thanks to April Betsch for reaching out to me at one of the first events I worked and taking me around to meet many of the key people I would end up working closely with. Thanks to Eileen Soisson for teaching me what it means to Feel the Teal and for going out of her way to support me. Thanks to Matt Hogue, Seth Horton, and Kevin Olivett from athletics for treating me so well and for genuinely caring about my ideas and input.

Year #1 is in the books and it was great. I am appreciative of the opportunity Coastal Carolina University has afforded me and I can’t wait to improve. Don’t Blink.

Feel the Teal: Surprised and Recognized at CCU

I am blessed to say that all of my days at Coastal Carolina University are good days. But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that some days are even better than the good days. Today was one of those.

After I left work yesterday I received a call from our awesome and valuable administrative assistant, Kim. She told me that a 9 a.m. meeting had been scheduled for today. I thought something semi-urgent must have come up that our communication team needed to talk about. This morning at about 8:30 a.m. Kim came to my desk and told me that the meeting would just be with me and our Vice President for University Communication (Bill Plate – My Boss). She also added that the meeting would start in his office at 8:55 a.m. My head started to turn. What was up? Did I do something wrong?

I went into Bill’s office and he just asked me to help him establish some goals for an accreditation program. Right away at ease, I brainstormed some ideas with him. After discussing a couple more topics our meeting concluded. I walked out of his office and strolled down the hall to my desk. Once I passed through the hallway and made it to our office’s lobby area I was greeted with a special surprise.

Across from me stood all of my University Communication co-workers and superiors. Our university photographer was present and he had his camera fixated right at me. Right in front of the whole group holding a bunch of teal balloons was Eileen Soisson, the Director of Service Excellence at Coastal. Everyone was starring at me and everyone was smiling.

Eileen Soisson addresses me this morning. I swear that there were more people watching than just our crazy Director of Creative Services Rob Wyeth (Thank you to our University photographer, Bill Edmonds for the photo. Thank you to Mona Prufer for passing the photo  C.D. onto me).

Eileen Soisson addresses me this morning. I swear that there were more people watching than just our crazy Director of Creative Services Rob Wyeth (Thank you to our University photographer, Bill Edmonds for the photo. Thank you to Mona Prufer for passing the photo C.D. onto me).

Eileen, the woman who is in charge of the innovative and popular “Feel the Teal” program, addressed me. She said that she was in our office today to honor me for the simple act I did last weekend. If you didn’t read my post from Monday night, I had the opportunity through a social media promotion to give my football tickets away to a student and her overseas dad who just happened to be in town for Family Weekend. It was a no-brainer on my part but the university still wanted to give me some recognition.

Eileen hands me the balloons. The Feel the Teal program is outstanding and innovative.

Eileen hands me the balloons. The Feel the Teal program is outstanding and innovative. (Thanks to Bill Edmonds for the photos).

After saying some really nice words about me, Eileen handed me the balloons while my office clapped. It was the nicest, most genuine thing that has ever been done for me in a professional setting before. I was able to hold it together but it did touch me. This is why I am at Coastal, I thought to myself.

Me with Eileen Soisson. It is easy to love a university and want to do your best when they treat you like this.

Me with Eileen Soisson. It is easy to love a university and want to do your best when they treat you like this.

Needless to say, it turned a good day into a great day. Bill, the same great boss who recognized me at the Board of Trustees meeting, orchestrated the whole thing. This morning was one of those times where a snap shot was instantly cemented into my brain. I will always have that image of all the people I work with on a daily basis looking right at me while Eileen stood in the center with balloons. I can’t thank Coastal enough for letting me implement my vision for its social media program and then honoring me simply for following through with it. I am at the right place. Don’t Blink.

Feel the Teal: Serving Others

Since arriving at Coastal Carolina University I have had the opportunity to go through training unlike anything else I have ever gone through with any other employer. What type of training you might ask? I am talking hard core customer service/employee betterment boot camp type training.

Well boot camp is definitely too strong of a word. The trainings aren’t that intense and our instructor isn’t anything like a crazy drill sergeant. I guess a better way to describe the program offered at Coastal Carolina to get employees at the top of their games might be outstanding service awareness. Or I can just call it what they call it here at CCU, Feel the Teal.

Coastal Carolina University has designed a program called Feel the Teal that teaches employees how to be as effective as possible in all aspects of interactions with others on campus. The program emphasizes showing the utmost respect for all groups whether it be students, parents, co-workers, etc. Made up of eight separate modules, you dive into a lot of issues while learning how you can approach certain situations better.

As of last Friday I have now completed the first three modules titled Service Basics, Attitude of Service, and Civility on Campus. All two hour sessions taught by Director of Service Excellence Eileen Soisson, I have felt like I have learned a lot. In no particular order, topics discussed over my total of six hours in training include how to point, whether it is ever okay to e-mail during a meeting, the distance that it becomes necessary to acknowledge someone, the true definition of civility, sneaky ways of being uncivil in the workplace, ways that detract from work productivity, acceptable time to respond to phone calls/e-mails, proper components to have in an e-mail signature, appropriate ways of addressing others, the power of a good attitude, the importance of going above and beyond, and so much more.

Some of these things you might say are common sense but you really learn a lot more in Feel the Teal because you get to workshop with other Coastal employees and Eileen does a fantastic job of leading the discussion. The points brought up tend to stay with you. The fact that a workplace is devoting so much energy, time, and money to an initiative such as Feel the Teal tells me that I am employed by a pretty special university. Coastal Carolina wants all employees to be outstanding ambassadors for the university and how can you blame them? Well you can’t, cause I think every university probably wants that out of the people they hire. But what separates CCU is that it goes miles and miles beyond what other institutions are doing to make a campus where everyone puts others before themselves.

I never had any idea that programs resembling Feel the Teal existed until I arrived here in South Carolina. I think it is a more than worthy initiative that helps everyone associated with this campus. I invite any of my friends back west to come visit me in Myrtle Beach and we will head over to CCU and you will see the difference. It is pretty cool. Don’t Blink.