Communication is key, and Central Michigan University has a new form of communication that officials hope will keep them more informed.
“Our CMU,” a twice-weekly newsletter distributed to all CMU faculty, staff, administrators and officials, contains stories featuring faculty and staff research, accomplishments and brag-worthy facts about happenings on campus.
Operated by University Communications staff members, the publication will act as a vehicle for communication among faculty and staff that previously didn’t exist.
Before the creation of “Our CMU,” Maestro Message, an email service that blasts short news stories out once or twice a day, was used.
Sherry Knight, associate vice president of University Communications, said the email service had to change, and “Our CMU” was the solution.
“We had a need to be able to communicate information and stories to the campus community, but (Maestro Message) generated too much email,” Knight said. “We knew we had to come up with a different vehicle for that, as well as feature-type stories that wouldn’t have fit in the Maestro Message format.”
Knight said the publication will not cost the university any extra expenditures.
UComm officials turned to nationally-recognized news sources, such as The New York Times and the Ann Arbor News for ideas about how to post important news to the campus community.
“We literally had no way to get feature stories out,” Knight said. “Yet, there’s a tremendous need to communicate what’s happening on campus, so we looked at national papers because the media studies this sort of thing day in and day out. We looked at the model of how information is distributed and what these papers have learned. We stole ideas from the experts.”
Logistically, “Our CMU” is a group effort from the UComm staff. Any news that faculty and staff might be interested in can be included. Knight said a strategy referred to as COPE is utilized.
“The whole concept behind this really is COPE – Create Once, Publish Everywhere,” Knight said. “This is just us leveraging every vehicle that we have to get information out.”
The goal is to build community amongst the faculty and staff across campus.
“Community doesn’t exist if we don’t know what our neighbor is doing,” Knight said. ”‘Our CMU’ is designed to help people understand the power of CMU, and all of this is woven together in a way that’s never existed before.”
However, according to one faculty member, that goal isn’t being reached.
Mike Libbee, a professor of geography, said the newsletter, though informative, is simply an act of public relations and doesn’t promote any sort of community on campus. He also recalls only receiving one newsletter, while calls to other faculty members revealed that they didn’t even know what “Our CMU” was, nor were they aware that they’d ever received it.
“I found that (“Our CMU” was) something I can scan easily and pick up what I’m interested in and reject what I’m not,” he said. “But, it doesn’t achieve the goal of community. It’s standard. It is very much a PR vehicle.”
Libbee said the communication gap between departments on campus isn’t something that can be solved with a weekly newsletter. He said the division is a spatial issue, and one that must be tackled by faculty themselves.
“The division of the university into more colleges, for me at least, has made communication with faculty in other colleges more difficult,” Libbee said. “I miss the communication I used to have with people in other departments, but this newsletter isn’t going to help resolve that spatial issue. I have to reach out to do that. There’s nothing the university can do. It’s my responsibility.”