By Kaylee Lindenmuth
A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the grand opening of a “cutting-edge, dynamic space” in the Rickenbach Learning Center on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
Now housed in the Department of Communication Studies is a Social Media Analytics Strategic Hub, or SMASH, which will play “a critical role in the new [social media theory and strategy] major, a unique program that develops real-world and hands-on skills for today’s marketplace,” according to College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Dr. Michelle Kiec.
“At more than 50 students, this new major is quickly growing and exceeding enrollment expectations,” Kiec added.
“I’m taking two courses in SMASH now and I’ve been impressed with the technology and the nontraditional set-up. The environment is very user-friendly and great for group work,” said Tony Destin, a junior communication studies major. “Having the social media knowledge taught in SMASH will help students bring value to companies.”
The hub was designed to supplement the SMS major, which, according to a media release, is among the first in the nation, and a minor will be added next semester.
“The SMS degree is a one-of-a-kind undergraduate degree merging coursework in the humanities, business and data analytics. It is industry-driven by today’s job market, with social media strategy professionals in high demand,” said Dr. Keith Massie, SMS Area Coordinator. “The Social Media Analytics Strategic Hub (SMASH) is an interactive learning space employing a host of technologies for the collection and analysis of social media data.”
The hardware in the hub will allow students to work in groups and “cast any digital device to a mounted monitor for group discussions.” KU is also in the process of purchasing advanced social media software developed at Harvard University in Massachusetts. The software “employs advanced artificial intelligence to seek patterns not initially obvious to human analysis and gives students access to powerful social media analytics, as it has the capability to keep historical records of social media platforms.”
“Close to half the world’s population (more than 3 billion people) use social media. Jobs in this burgeoning field are abundant, offer exceptional salaries and often provide the home-based and flex hour opportunities millennials and Gen Z-ers desire. That’s why KU worked to create a full-scale undergraduate degree program in this growing field,” said Jim Ludlow, vice-chair of the KU Council of Trustees and president of Liquid Interactive, Allentown. “I’m proud of the expert teams who developed this first-of-its-kind comprehensive experience and pleased that this degree will position KU graduates to rank among top contenders for some of the most sought-after jobs in the country. As the owner of a large digital agency, I have great regard for this skill set and understand the massive industry demand.”
Technology systems available at the hub include:
- NUVI – proprietary software to study analytics via real-time customizable data visualizations
- Gephi – visualization software for graphs and networks
- Twitter Capture and Analysis Software (TCAT)
The TCAT system software actively mines and archives tweets, and, according to a media release, only a few U.S. universities have the system. The KU TCAT system has already archived more than 30 million tweets on 45 different topics.