A scroll through Hillsdale College’s Facebook feed opens a window into the school’s culture, pulling up photos of this year’s welcome party and convocation, articles about Hillsdale alumni, and the latest publication from College President Larry Arnn.
Hillsdale’s appeal is the same as always, but a new force is driving the college’s social media front: 2017 alumna Gianna Marchese.
After graduating from Hillsdale last spring with a degree in marketing, Marchese decided to return the favor to her alma mater and fill the shoes of 2014 alumna Hannah Strickland Rozsa — who married and moved to Chicago this summer — as the college’s social media marketing coordinator.
In this position, Marchese runs five main social media accounts: Hillsdale’s main page, Online Courses, Imprimis, Alumni Association, and The Kirby Center. For all these, she manages some combination of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google Plus — an “overwhelming amount of passwords,” she said.
Marchese expressed a vision for what social media can accomplish for Hillsdale: “My main goal for the whole department is to educate people about what Hillsdale is and what we’re doing,” she said, noting that Hillsdale’s online courses in particular reach out to people of all ages.
The task is a challenge, Marchese said, because it’s different than managing personal social media.
“I think the main difference is that you can’t use your own voice, you have to use the college’s voice,” Marchese said. “You’re speaking on behalf of the college, and you’re the public face of the college.”
Director of Digital Marketing Jon Lewis, Marchese’s supervisor, said Marchese’s familiarity with the college made her a good candidate for the job.
“Being a graduate of the college, she understands the mission really well, she loves it, she loves being here,” Lewis said. “She also appreciates taking what’s special about this place and reaching the masses with it, which is unique and really fun.”
Hillsdale can use the ubiquity of social media to its advantage, Marchese emphasized.
“We’re everywhere on social media, and with that kind of presence, how many people can we possibly affect?” Marchese said. “I know my life was changed because I knew about Hillsdale and because I came here and I learned the things I learned at Hillsdale. How many others can we change in the same way?”
With her goals in mind, Marchese starts her day off with a cup of coffee from Rough Draft and scrolls through comments on her posts. Dealing with blowback can be a tough task, she said.
“We get a lot of haters, and it’s hard to deal with someone bashing on the things you love, even though they might not be correct,” Marchese said. She approaches conflict in a “Hillsdale way,” she said: “Kill rudeness with kindness.”
Marchese spends the rest of her day helping any campus body that might need social media assistance, whether adjusting the library’s Twitter account or directing someone’s online question to the right people.
Lewis said he knew that Marchese’s strengths would be well suited to the job.
“One of her personality-test strengths is ‘Maximizer,’ which means she takes something that is already there, and she’s always thinking about how she can improve it, make it better,” Lewis said.
Marchese has filled her position well and enhanced the work environment, said senior Joshua Liebhauser, the head of Marchese’s student intern team.
“It’s nice that she’s a very recent student, so it’s informal, and yet it’s still a very professional environment and we still get a lot done,” Liebhauser said. “That skill comes through in her meetings with staffers and faculty members and students — being able to handle all that and being adept at social interactions. She’s pretty good at that.”
Marchese said she will continue to rise to the challenge with zest.
“It’s just a blast everyday,” Marchese said. “There are new challenges every day, which is good for a Hillsdale student, because strength rejoices in the challenge.”