Maryville College’s 12th President, Dr. Bryan Coker, connects with students through social media. Coker transitioned into the president position at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since Coker accepted the position, the nation shut down due to Covid-19, and shelter-in-place orders were given. There was truly only one way that Coker could connect with students and the community during the transition.
“Jacob Haskew (Multimedia Communications Specialist) had asked me to make a Maryville College President Instagram after seeing my involvement on Twitter in my previous position. He was the reason why I was able to have such a smooth transition,” Coker said.
After the Instagram page gained traction, a Facebook page was also made to connect with others, especially alumni, that only used Facebook.
Social media is key to connecting with others during the pandemic and the Maryville College community is no different.
“Social media became a lot more important because of travel restrictions due to Covid,” Coker said.
Coker’s use of social media after his acceptance of the position made it easier to know the new president and his family. Maryville College has not had a new president in 10 years, so Coker’s installation is a special and momentous occasion for the college. Social media connected the community through a screen.
Students and the community were able to learn more about Coker in his previous positions and what he plans for Maryville College’s future.
“The presidential job can be isolating, and social media connected me to campus,” Coker said.
Coker has implemented new ways through social media to capture his vision for diversity and inclusion on campus.
“Social media is a way I can speak about my views and where the college stands,” Coker said.
Coker also uses his platform to speak out about current events outside the community.
“I have done my best to speak out about racial injustice and the violence at the capitol,” Coker said. “There is a human being behind the title. Social media makes you forget that sometimes.”
Coker’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter put a face to the name of Maryville College President position.
“I think it’s really important in jobs like mine to humanize the position because it’s easy to dehumanize people in leadership positions,” Coker said. Like with every good thing, though, there are always bumps along the way.
“Social media is fascinating I am a fan of it, but I also recognize the downfalls,” Coker said. There are many benefits of social media. Students and the community can have constant communication with the administration and know where the college stands on certain issues. With that, there are complications with doing so.
It is easy to point fingers and claim to be mad at the administration when anything happens on campus.
“Social media makes you more vulnerable. There are risks with putting yourself out there,” he said.
During the Fall semester of 2020, students did not have the usual long weekend for Fall Break, creating burnout and frustration amongst the student body.
“My family traveled to Florida for my son’s fall break, and I decided to join them for a couple of days.”
Coker posted a picture of him and his family after their vacation on Instagram. When that happened, students were upset and voiced their opinions over social media.
“They had every right to be upset, but I just wanted to spend time with my family, and I made the decision,” Coker said. “I have learned to accept the criticism, move on, and learn from my mistakes.”
Everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinion and on social media.
“We learn and agree to disagree,” Coker said.
Because of the pandemic, it is hard to find ways to safely connect with everyone on campus. During Winter break, the College featured Coker reading “The Night Before Christmas at Maryville College” with his son and dog at the RT Lodge.
When coming back to campus this spring Coker wanted to connect with as many students as possible. That is when the “Pop-up” President came into existence. “I keep trying to find safe ways to occasionally ‘pop up’ and be there if students have questions and just connect with students in general.”
The first Pop-up President event was on the first day of in-person classes and individually wrapped donuts were safely given out to students. Coker had the chance to check in with students and make sure they were adjusting okay.
“I knew I wanted to find a way to see students and wish them well on the first day of in-person classes,” Coker said.
To find out more about what is happening on campus and to see Coker’s social media in action, follow the Maryville College President on Instagram and Facebook (@Maryvillecollegepresident) and Twitter (@bcoker).