Collaborative Campus Partnerships Make Doing More Possible

Back in October of 2010, I saw an opportunity to create a collaborative campus partnership to enhance the University of Arkansas’s 2010 Homecoming by live streaming it for everyone around the world. The project started by one of our alumni asking us to stream a pep rally earlier in the season (of course with less than 24hr notice it was not feasible) and I thought what if we could stream the Homecoming activities too? We would be able to allow alumni & friends, students, fans and anyone else interested in the University of Arkansas (yep prospective students) to watch all the 2010 Homecoming festivities.

As with most project that come up in the middle of the fiscal year it quickly got shoot down (due to budget constraints) and I was told to “plan for next year”. However, I paused and thought “why does it have to cost money? We are talking about live streaming and that is done at almost no cost these days (all you need is the camera equipment and time).” So we didn’t have the camera equipment or the staff/time needed to accomplish it, but we’d probably never have the equipment/staff needed to accomplish it (that is not really our function here). Then I remember “we are part of a University and there are other campus groups that would probably help us out”.

Therefore, on behalf of the Association, I set out to form a collaborative campus partnership with University of Arkansas Television (UATV) and University Intercollegiate Athletics (Athletics) to live stream the 2010 Homecoming activities. The partnership was developed with a simple focus to accomplish these objectives:

  1. Stream the 2010 Homecoming Activities live online, free, for everyone to see.
  2. Involve additional students and faculty/staff in producing part of Homecoming.
  3. Promotion of all groups involved to accomplish the project.
  4. Develop a living partnership to allow improvements for the 2011 Homecoming.

This is Collaboration and not cooperation!

So right now you are probably saying that this is a cooperative partnership and not collaboration as the goals are all being set by the Alumni Association. Well Anthony McAdoo defined the difference really well on his blog saying “…we are working together on a mutually beneficial goal.  There is no mine/yours and success or failure is equally shared.  Resources brought to the relationship are in balance and ultimately we both will maintain the same level of ownership in the goal.” Therefore, the goals above were actually selected by all parties involved and not just set by the Association.

Everyone Had Say in the Goals, Really?

Although it sounds hard to believe at first, it is true that all the groups involved got to openly discuss the overall project and the goals we should have. I never approached this as a can you help us do this. Instead I started our approach to the collaborative partnership by simply asking each group if they were interested. Since each group is considered an independent organization on our campus and everyone working on it (myself included) would basically be volunteering to support the project it would really need them to be committed to making it happen (especially since we only had one month to make it happen).

UATV, founded in 1996, is a Registered Student Organization (RSO) fully maintained and operated by U of A students and therefore considered an independent organization from the University of Arkansas. The station’s funding comes from the student media fee; however, the students run the station. They produce their own programs, manage their own budgets and hire the staff, both paid and volunteer, with the senior staff being full-time students, with GPAs at the RSO required level. They report directly to the Student Media Board. Although the station has faculty advisors who work closely with the students, they are considered “advisors” and not managers of the station. Today, the station broadcasts throughout northwest Arkansas, on Cox Communications.

Athletics has operated without state funds throughout the course of its existence and therefore has functioned independently of the overall university in several key areas. In regards to its internet presence, the additional requirements of exterior rights holders and the Southeastern Conference along with certain commerce-oriented aspects of the website, the athletic department has functioned as a “.com” entity from its beginnings in the 1990s.

Therefore each group would need to get as much as they give to the partnership if we really wanted to see it be successful. The most important goal that the group came up with was that we should showcase our student talents (letting the students do most of the on screen and behind the senese work when possible). This would give the students real-world professional experience with a nationwide “live” broadcast. It would also put the students in front of potential employers (that might be watching it) and help them get a job after they graduate (which that is good for everyone). The second and important thing that came up was that each group would want recognition for their contributions (UATV, Athletics and the Alumni groups) rather than it getting hidden under some umbrella of “Homecoming”.

Thus, by focusing on each organization’s strengths, the Association included, we were able to work together to accomplish the overall goals and provide additional benefits to each organization.

Specific Roles & Responsibilities of each organization

UATV agreed to produce and stream a 2½ hour live show including the Homecoming parade and pep rally along with recaps of other activities earlier in the week through UATVonline.net since they had all the needed equipment, student support and experience in doing live television shows. This also gave students the chance to get real world experience in a live news show around a topic of major importance and interest to the University of Arkansas community along with allowing alumni and friends, potential future employers, to see them live and in action.

Athletics agreed to stream the halftime show through RazorVision, for free, as a way to give back to the community. They also had most of the equipment already in place along with the needed trained support (student workers) on streaming through their system. This would also increase awareness of their RazorVision (home game live streaming) service to alumni and friends around the world.

As the Association was already responsible for the marketing efforts around the 2010 Homecoming, it was a perfect fit to add these additional market outreach activities to create a more inclusive Homecoming for our alumni and friends who couldn’t return to campus. The Association did this through the use of email messages, Facebook updates, blog articles, news announcements and the 2010 Homecoming website.

Results: A Big Win for All

The best result is that all organizations have agreed to make it better for the 2011 Homecoming. Also each group has stated an interest in doing more collaborative partnerships with us which will allow us to do even more in the future.

  • 26 additional students were engaged in producing part of the 2010 Homecoming activities.

Pre Show Marketing Stats

  • 55,062 recipients were sent the “Take Part in Homecoming ‘Round the World” email.
  • 32,072 recipients were sent the “University of Arkansas Newswire” email with live stream event listings.
  • 3,451 unique page views on the Homecoming web site.

Homecoming Show Stats

  • 536 viewers tuned in for the UATV Homecoming live stream show.
  • 998 viewers tuned in for the Homecoming halftime live stream show.
  • 138 viewers have watched the UATV Homecoming pep rally show on demand.
  • 1,091 viewers have watched the Homecoming halftime show on demand.