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The Instagramable Vice President: 15 Higher Ed VPs to Follow


Last year, I published the 20 Higher Education Presidents to follow on Instagram. In the post, I shared about the huge opportunity for Higher Ed Presidents to bring a personal touch to their presidency by sharing interesting content on their own Instagram accounts. Less than a year later, the Pew Research Center is reporting in the last year, Instagram has seen a steady increase in users and 71% of Americans ages 18-24 use the platform daily. According to Instagram, the Instagram stories feature has increased the amount of time users spend on the platform (400 million daily users) and users under 25 years old spend more than 32 minutes a day on the platform.

These users (many which are your students) come to the platform multiple times a day to be inspired and discover new things, which includes content from colleges, universities, AND higher education administrators. So, while we have a good handle on which Higher Ed Presidents are using Instagram and which Vice Presidents are embodying digital leadership on Twitter, I thought I would look into which Vice Presidents are embracing Instagram.

As I began my search, I’m reminded of the power of this platform! Instagram is a great way to share your point of view through photos, videos and even boomerangs from campus. It’s also a platform that can be completely managed from a smartphone. I love that I can take a photo with my iPhone, add a quick filter and caption, my favorite hashtag and publish.

However, what I quickly discovered while preparing for this post on vice presidents versus campus presidents, is that Instagram is still a fairly new territory for VPs, many accounts are not as clearly defined and/or privacy settings were applied. Because of this, my list is small and also includes some associate vice presidents and Deans. I hope this will change when I come back to this post in a year.

Vice Presidents to Follow on Instagram

Through quality content development, posting captivating photos and sharing interesting videos these 15 Higher Education Vice Presidents have embraced Instagram to engage with their campus community. In this post get to know some of the VPs who aren’t just “instafamous” but using the platform to truly connect and make an impact for their campus.
Please note, there are many more Higher Ed vice presidents on Instagram, however, only public (non-private) Instagram accounts are featured in this article. If you know of a VP with a stellar public Instagram account, list their handle in the comments at the end.

LJ (Levester Johnson) (@levesterj)

Vice President for Student Affairs, Illinois State University. 3,020 followers; 711 following. LJ spends a good amount of time out of his office connecting across campus and shares his adventures on his Instagram account. His profile does a great job sharing what it’s like to be a Redbird! His bio is also filled out with his personal brand and features his top 5 strengths, a hashtag he likes to use and a link to his professional website.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkiWqHNHQWW/?taken-by=levesterj

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bky18zzHKLv/?taken-by=levesterj

Dr. Berenecea Johnson Eanes (@vp_bjeanes)

Vice President for Student Affairs, California State University Fullerton. 417 followers; 210 following. Berenecea’s Instagram feed features students, stories, and reasons to love CSUF. Berenecea actively embraces the #MyTopCollege hashtag highlighting the unique features, programs and people of CSUF.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BaxDXxCBTJe/?taken-by=vp_bjeanes

Dwayne Todd (@owuvp)

Vice President for Student Engagement and Success & Dean of Students, Ohio Wesleyan University. 450 followers; 391 following. From campus happenings and staff appreciation events to local donut shops, Dwayne takes his followers on an adventure through Ohio Wesleyan University. He has also mastered taking group photos and sharing the spotlight with students, faculty and staff.

Lisa Kirkpatrick (@dr.vpsa_lk)

Vice President for Student Affairs/Title IX Coordinator, St. Edward’s University. 571 followers; 180 following. From behind the scenes meeting with young alumni to building community collages featuring Homecoming festivities, students are the center of Lisa’s insta strategy.

Patty Perillo (@pattyperillo)

Vice President for Student Affairs, Virginia Tech. 765 followers; 408 following. From hanging with the Simpsons to meeting with 1st generation Hokies, Patty shares a look at both her personal and professional life on her feed. I especially love her personal touch with a selfie from new student orientation; 148 likes! ❤️

Mary Jo Gonzales (@maryjogonzales)

Vice President for Student Affairs, Washington State University. 784 followers; 1,155 following. Videos featuring the Cougar band, a pinch of food photography and a dash of #SAPro selfies are the recipe for Mary Jo’s insta success. Mary Jo also highlights her community hashtags in a well thought out bio and she is a pro at sharing multiple photos from the same event through albums.

Jayne Brownell (@jaynebrownell)

Vice President for Student Life, Miami University. 186 followers; 89 following. Office culture, campus culture and a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to be a Higher Ed administrator fills Jayne’s feed. Her fun use of hashtags (#Ilovedata and #nerdingout) are a nice touch. Jayne is also a master at selfies, sharing photos with fellow administrators and students.

Jeffrey Putman (@jeffreynyc)

Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students, SUNY Downstate Medical Center. 2,891 followers; 5,497 following. Throwback photo features, fun photo albums and beautiful photos of what makes NYC a magical city adorn Jeff’s feed. Bonus points: He’s followed by DunkinDonuts. ☕️

Terisa Riley (@terisariley)

Senior Vice President, Texas A&M-Kingsville. 473 followers; 305 following. A customized bitmoji + free pizza = insta gold! What else can you ask for? Terisa’s feed is student-focused and tons of fun. Her content is a good balance of photos, albums, and video.

Vernon J. Hurte (@cydeanhurte)

Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, Iowa State University. 452 followers; 214 following. What’s happening on campus? And what is it like to be a Cyclone? Vernon’s feed is packed with highlighting student affairs professionals, campus happenings and what’s going on in his unit.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BjpZWralzlQ/?taken-by=cydeanhurte
https://www.instagram.com/p/BhH-vmKAjE7/?taken-by=cydeanhurte

Mordecai I. Brownlee (@itsdrmordecai)

Vice President for Student Success, St. Philip’s College. 491 followers; 481 following. Book recommendations, highlighting student success and sharing photos of his beautiful family are the mix Mordecai uses to drive engagement on his Instagram account. Make sure you scroll thru to see photos of his amazing family!

Terry Mena (@dr.terrymena)

Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, Lamar University. 1676 followers; 4,788 following. Memes, graphics and family fun adorn Terry’s feed. Terry includes his personal brand attributes in his bio and he often uses campus community hashtags and tags other organizations when he shares content.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BgxRkj8gQFy/?taken-by=dr.terrymena
https://www.instagram.com/p/BjqCM8iA7_q/?taken-by=dr.terrymena

Lincoln Johnson (@bubbalinc)

Associate Vice President for Student Life, University of Washington. 499 followers; 150 following. Reconnecting with students, meeting future Huskies and life in the Pacific Northwest. Lincoln receives a lot of comments and engagement on his posts and he actively monitors to respond to feedback and questions.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier (@jpkirchmeier)

Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services, Northwestern. 925 followers; 624 following. Julie’s feed features a blend of professional experience, a look at her off-campus adventures and behind the scenes shots from her campus role at Northwestern. She livens up her feed with food and cat pics paired with well written and detailed captions.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BlWC4hdFDBK/?taken-by=jpkirchmeier
https://www.instagram.com/p/BkTWnTvl3qP/?taken-by=jpkirchmeier

Jason L. Meriwether (@ricvpss)

Vice President for Student Success, Rhode Island College. 934 followers; 939 following. Campus news, campus happenings and a ton of selfies. Jason’s insta feed takes you on an adventure across the RIC campus nearly every day. Peek his account to see great photos from commencement, the smiles on those faces!
https://www.instagram.com/p/BitUQv_HQmE/?taken-by=ricvpss
https://www.instagram.com/p/Bjz9CdkHjRb/?taken-by=ricvpss

Bonus Round: New Insta Veep Alert

Ed Cabellon (@dr.edcabellon)

While Ed’s account was only recently created, as a digital engagement scholar he is not new to the platform. As a brand new Vice President, Ed has chosen to create a branded page that aims to connect with his campus community. We love that he has already crafted a clear bio and has started sharing great images of his staff paired with detailed captions which include smart @mentions and campus hashtags!

https://www.instagram.com/p/BlL56wgHKPE/?taken-by=dr.edcabellon
Make sure to connect with me on Instagram for behind the scenes on my latest speaking engagement or even adventures with my friends/family/fur babies.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BldybcPAjb6/?taken-by=josieahlquist

Ready to connect your Instagram presence to your campus role?

I’m excited to see even more higher education leaders embracing Instagram and using it as a vehicle to share their personal adventures and professional experiences with their campus community. If you’re ready to connect with your campus through Instagram then you’ll love this BRAND NEW resource that I’ve created called Get Connected: The Social Media Guide for Campus Leaders.
This guide will share the latest usage of young adults of social media including Instagram and how campus leaders can genuinely connect with their campus community. Click the image below to request a copy of the guide.

If you’re looking for tips, tricks or need a little more guidance on Instagram, check out my blog post, it will help you lay out methods to drive interaction, comments, and relationships. And if you’re looking to upgrade your social and digital presence join my private Facebook community “The Connected Exec.” I’ve built this community exclusively for higher ed execs and look forward to connecting with you.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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