It is hard to get your arms around one million, be it as an amount of dollars, or days, or mouse clicks — but I wanted to try. A million dollars is a life time of paychecks for some; a million days ago, was September in the year 726 B.C. (thank you Dr. Bill Hagar for your calculations).
A million is BIG.
But in a few short days, the University of Massachusetts Boston will celebrate an important million milestone that involves one million clicks.
Any day now we will reach one million views on the university’s YouTube channel. At last glance our channel registered 990,241 views!
What a moment it will be. One million clicks on our video icons will have occurred since we premiered the channel in 2009, about three and a half years ago.
The UMass Boston channel was a pipe dream back then. Since that time there has been enormous growth of the power of YouTube in American culture, with both constructive and controversial outcomes. Online learning is booming, never has information been so accessible, and yet this venue for free speech is also having remarkable political implications.
For UMass Boston, our YouTube identity has been a very good thing. Before there was a UMass Boston YouTube we had a great collection of videos that were privately stored and, for the most part, publicly inaccessible.
The seeds for germinating the channel came when the university was celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Urban Scholars pre-collegiate program. To chronicle the program’s growth, the university advancement office worked with the program and Information Technology to set up a “talk show” where current Urban Scholars would interview the program’s founder, Dr. Charles Desmond. What resulted was “UrbanNet” a very uplifting conversation that brought history to life and showcased UMass Boston’s commitment to educational empowerment.
But we needed a platform to showcase the video. What we needed was an official university YouTube channel. There existed a bunch of scattered channels, in fact, one of them already had taken our name youtube.com/umass boston, but there hadn’t been any posts in a few years to that channel.
Lisa Link in Information Technology did the daring thing of reaching out directly to Google to obtain a special “education channel” status, which allowed for a no advertisement platform that we could brand to the university’s standards. She also had the task of reclaiming the UMass Boston name for our channel.
Now Google is a big place. But that didn’t hinder Lisa. She pushed her way through its labyrinth, stayed persistent and energetic, and finally made her way to the professional for education at Google, named Obadiah “Obie” Greenberg. It didn’t take Obie long to hear the passion in our emails and to be convinced that this urban public student centered research university had marvelous tales to share about its impact on the world. Obie agreed and soon our “enhanced channel” was born. In fact, Obie was our very first channel subscriber.
When DeWayne Lehman and Colleen Locke arrived in the Office of Communications and Government Relations, they championed our cause and have been stalwart advocates of bringing the highest quality and broadest reach to our university channel.
We now have videos that showcase all aspects of the university. There are student videos, and faculty teaching videos, speeches from commencement and convocation. One video takes the award for most hits. It is Dr. Edward Tronick’s video about his “Still Face” psychology experiment. Another very popular video is the Dennis Lehane commencement speech. Of course there is also President Obama’s UMass Boston graduation address. Most professionally rewarding have been my efforts to interview both donors and the beneficiaries of their generosity to share in a powerful way how transforming private giving to our university can be.
One particularly successful project on the YouTube channel has been our “My UMass Boston” student video contest. Check out this year’s winner.
The story of that contest is another one about collaboration. I heard about the idea at a conference in Western MA and brought it back to my partner Lisa Link. Fresno State had been doing a contest for years, and their student video winners were truly inspirational and the content was loads better than anything official the university was putting out.
Lisa had been laying the “we need more video” mantra as we both worked to enrich content on the university’s web site. What an idea to generate “User Generated Content!” So we partnered with communications again and so was born the contest. I take special pride that I was the one who gave it its name: “My UMass Boston.”
Today Crystal Bozek in the communications office organizes the My UMass Boston contest each year and through her excellent work, its popularity is quickly growing. Perhaps, more than the monetary award that awardees receive is the remarkable recognition they are granted when the top videos are shown at commencement. The My UMass Boston videos are among the most watched on the university’s channel.
So one million clicks really means so much for UMass Boston. One million clicks means we now have a vibrant home for the voice of our university. It is a home that is complemented by the university’s web video platform, ITunes University, and other emerging technologies.
One million clicks means that when some viewer in some distant place is watching a video about a cat who can juggle, or some another arcane, overnight YouTube video sensation, that person might possibly stumble upon the intellectual and social oasis that is www.youtube.com/umassboston. And who knows how that viewer might be inspired to connect with UMass Boston’s mission of knowledge for public good.
Nan Cormier, M.A. is director of advancement communications