Incoming freshmen at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications received a different kind of message welcoming them to the fall semester—personalized videos from two prominent alumni.
On Friday, freshmen received e-mails with links to 30 second-long videos from Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, and Contessa Brewer, an MSNBC anchor.
Officials describe the videos as “hyperpersonalized.” Each video begins with Ms. Brewer or Mr. Crowley saying the first name of the recipient, followed by a brief general message. Recording a personal intro for each of the more than 300 students took some practice, pronunciation keys, and a few hours.
In recent years, universities have experimented with different ways of staying connected with incoming students to reduce what is called “summer melt,” where colleges see their enrollments dip after students decide, for one reason or another, to change plans. Gambits to stop the melt include universities beefing up their social-media presence, keeping a blog, or even sending out T-shirts to keep committed students interested.
Lorraine Branham, dean of the Newhouse School, came up with the idea after meeting with Eric Frankel, a Newhouse alumnus, earlier in the year. Mr. Frankel is chief executive of StarGreetz, a marketing start-up that specializes in personalized digital messages using celebrities and other popular figures.
“It occurred to me that it would be a nice thing if we could do something like this with our incoming freshmen using a couple of our alums,” Ms. Branham said.
“It’s not as if they didn’t know that they were admitted,” Ms. Branham said. “It’s an additional little message to them to let them know how excited we are about them coming and how special they are—sort of the icing on the cake.”
Unfortunately for one incoming student, the name in the video that he received wasn’t his. The Maine student acknowledged the error on the wall of the Facebook group, “Syracuse University Newhouse Class of 2015.”
StarGreetz set up the messages for Newhouse free, and Mr. Frankel called it his contribution to the school for the year, according to Ms. Branham.
The Newhouse dean said she wanted a recognizable face from television as well as someone involved in social media to be the alumni who would personally welcome the students and show them that the school is on the cutting edge of technology.
Ms. Branham plans on sending the videos to future classes and said she will share the idea with colleagues at other colleges.