If you don’t know what a hashtag is, don’t feel bad—the word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary only just this year.
Hashtags, unspaced phrases prefixed with a number sign (#), are added to messages and widely used on social networking services such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Simply put, they make it possible to group messages around a single topic.
When used as a caption, they do the same thing for photos—and that’s where Juan Batista, a forward-thinking administrative specialist in the Office of Academic Affairs comes in.
“I wanted people to be able to follow students on their Study Abroad trips,” he says, “so I asked the students if they would use the hashtags to organize their pictures from their trips this summer, and they were excited. They said, ‘Of course we will!’”
“I told the students, take pictures of the architecture, the food, any landscapes, and of you as a group, to give a flavor of the experience and show unity abroad.”
Each Study Abroad group of about 12 to 15 students is accompanied by at least one BMCC faculty person, and Batista hopes that with easy access to photos of the groups' adventures, awareness of the program will increase and more students will apply to take part in it.
Batista, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Queens College, CUNY, started his career at Baruch College as a campus liaison. His overall goal, he says, “is to make influential change to help students thrive on CUNY campuses."
The hashtags “were kind of a social experiment supporting that goal,” he says.
“I wanted to see if it would work, and it did. Now I’m hoping that we can build on that experiment and use it for recruiting, to promote BMCC in general, and to generate questions about Study Aboard and other opportunities on campus."