Montana State University

Mountains and Minds

The electronic threads that connect MSU students November 24, 2009 by Suzi Taylor • Published 11/24/09

MSU students and staff attest that technology doesn't diminish personal connections, but rather it strengthens and brings relevancy to relationships while expanding personal and professional networks.
Technology sometimes gets a bad rap--particularly when it comes to communication. Those who pine for the days before cell phones when all conversations were face-to-face may cringe at the cell phone as an "electronic leash" or the laptop as the ubiquitous digital sidekick. Yet, many Montana State University students and staff attest that technology doesn't diminish personal connections, but rather it strengthens and brings relevancy to relationships while expanding personal and professional networks. They explain how it's done.

Ryan Hannahoe, senior in education
A blog (which is short for "Web log") is a Web site that can be updated with news, commentary, graphics or personal diary-style entries. Hannahoe's blog is called "Astronomical Imaging; The Point When Art Breaks Through Science" and can be found at:

Tell us about your blog.
The blog is meant to expose individuals who wouldn't normally be interested in science to science through the power of art. Astronomical images are displayed that I take with telescopes via the Internet courtesy of New Mexico Skies, Inc. Each image is accompanied by a description of what you see in the particular photograph. 

How long have you been blogging, and what motivated you to start?
I started blogging earlier this year. Family, friends, and colleagues have all encouraged me to share my work with others over the Internet for a long time now. It was a big step for me to be able to do that in terms of getting the courage to post my work in the public's eye. 

How much time do you spend on your blog?
About 15-20 hours a week. 

What do you enjoy most about blogging?
enjoy almost every inquiry that I receive. The e-mail that I receive from the students at the K-12 level have been the most rewarding. These students ask the most intriguing questions regarding my astronomical work. When I receive an inquiry from a student, I do my best to respond to each one as soon as I can because there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you are turning someone on to the many wonders that science has to offer.

The Tweeter
Sean Kiracofe, 33, is assistant coach of the MSU Bobcat volleyball team. Kiracofe and the other coaches use Twitter, a tech tool that allows users to post online updates (called "tweets") about what's going on with the team--everything from the food on road trips to game analysis. Tweets must be very short--140 characters or less, so abbreviations and acronyms are common. People with a Twitter account can choose to "follow" other Twitter users. Twitter has an estimated six million unique monthly visitors, and some prominent tweeters include Oprah and actor Ashton Kutcher. Follow MSU volleyball at (Twitter account required)

When did you start tweeting for Bobcat volleyball and why?
Our Twitter anniversary date is May 18th 2009. It started as the new recruiting fad, but has evolved to (build) our fan base. 

Who are your followers?
Our growing fan base, other volleyball programs, other MSU programs, some recruits. 

When do you tweet?
Whenever something interesting or funny happens, or if I feel like we've been quiet for a while. 

What do you tweet about? Is there anything that's off limits?
My filter is pretty wide open as (head coach Sara Schaub and assistant coach Jenifer Sulweski) are finding out when I commented on amusing things during our last trip. While some complaints may come out when traveling, we definitely stay away from anything negative.

Who else helps you out? What does the team think of how you're using the technology?
chaub and Sulweski will help occasionally but still have trouble thinking of what is "important" enough to tweet about. We're going to start experimenting with the team tweeting soon. The team is just now catching up to everything we're doing as a staff. They like it but haven't had much feedback yet 

What do you enjoy most about Twitter?
It's great to see that people around Bozeman and the country want to know what our program is up to. 

What other technology tools does MSU volleyball use to connect with fans?
We have started our own Web site and use Facebook. We have amazing fans in Bozeman and want to give everyone outside of town as much insight as they want. 

Anything else?
We weren't the first volleyball program on Twitter but were definitely at the forefront as everyone else is just starting to follow suit. I just hope to keep ours more unique than the rest, as much as possible.

The Connector
Ashley Kiosse, senior in marketing/management
Kiosse is an orientation leader for MSU and uses Facebook, texting (short text messages sent via a cell phone) and other technology tools to stay in touch with other student leaders, as well as campus volunteer groups, friends, family and co-workers. She uses a Blackberry cell phone to manage her daily schedule through calendars, reminders and e-mail, and says she appreciates high-tech services like MSU Alert, which sends a text or e-mail to students, staff and faculty in case of an emergency on campus.

How many texts do you send in a typical week?
probably send over 1,000 texts a week.

Who do you text?
I text everybody. I find that a lot of people, including myself, prefer to text over talking on the phone. Of course I would rather chat with someone in person, but with our busy daily lives, that isn't always possible. I feel, and I know a lot of other people also feel this way, that when you call someone sometimes the conversations goes places that you didn't manage your time for; hence why we don't call our friends and families as often because we don't want to sit on the phone for an hour every time. I can send a text to my boss, coworker, friend, or family member and get my point across whether that be strictly business or just to say hi. I keep in touch with a lot more people now with texting and Facebook. I don't care any less about a person because I don't call them. In fact, it's more of the opposite. I talk to everyone more regularly and can keep up with what everyone is doing through texting and Facebook. 

Are you Facebook friends with your parents?
My mom is on Facebook. I told her I wouldn't add her until I finish college. I need to concentrate on my studies right now and not worry about my mom being nosy, because I know she would be. She would ask me what such and such comment was or who so and so was and I just don't have patience for that in my last semester at college. Love her, though! 

What do you think people misunderstand about some of the new technologies used by students?
I think those who don't understand or use these technologies have such a negative perception about them. I think people see other people texting or on the phone and it just simply annoys them. I can understand that. I will be the first to say I am bad about talking to my mom when I'm in line at Wal-Mart. It's a bad habit, I guess. I also think some people think we who use technologies don't like to do anything else. I love the outdoors. I also love relaxing at the TV or surfing the Net. People who enjoy technologies aren't lazy. Everything in your life needs to be balanced and this is just one of them.

The Organizer
The Rev. Canon Clark Sherman, 52, is rector of St. James Church in Bozeman and Episcopal Chaplain at MSU. The Episcopal Campus Ministry, which works in tandem with several other groups associated with Christus Collegium, provides an Episcopal presence to MSU students, faculty and staff. Father Clark uses Facebook, an online social networking tool, to post news and events and to connect with students. Facebook, once available only to university-affiliated staff and students, is now open to all and has 250 million members worldwide. The fastest growing demographic among Facebook users is people aged 35 and over, and more than 5 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day.  iew or join the Episcopal Campus Ministry group at (Facebook account required)

Tell us about your Facebook group.
I created the account last year as a way to publicize the ministry and a way to reach out to and communicate with members of the university community. I manage the site and find it a wonderful way to stay in touch with students. It is, in fact, a fantastic pastoral tool, by which I am able to communicate personally with students, including confidential communiqu├ęs.

Your group has 66 members. How do students find it and use it?
Advertising is primarily by word of mouth, Facebook's protocol and a link on our parish Web site. The Facebook site allows us to notify students of special events and programs easily. They are then able to RSVP, which is great for planning. This is an important aspect of our group using Facebook.

How do you feel technology impacts students and influences how you connect with them?
25 years ago I was working as Episcopal chaplain at Colorado State University. Comparing ministries and technologies today with yesterday is like night and day. Cell phones and computers have vastly increased communication. I imagine what is true for us, is true for the culture and everyday life too. E-mail, Web sites and Facebook have really empowered my ability to communicate with students. [They are] important pastoral tools to me as a college chaplain, as students can communicate their confidential concerns to me and each other. E-mail and Facebook afford students a wonderful avenue for confidential and casual communication. This is valuable in ministry, as students are able to stay in touch easily and readily. Facebook also provides a tool for casual communication between me and students. I am able to simply send a "howdy" to a student on a busy day or during exams, and let them know I'm thinking about them. It makes me accessible to them and their needs.