Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Mordecai I. Brownlee // It's Dr. Mordecai

Josie & the Podcast welcomes Dr. Mordecai I. Brownlee, Vice President for Student Success at St. Philip’s College, to the show. At the top of the episode, Mordecai quickly highlights his mission statement, which shines throughout our conversation. He shares how his digital philosophy is rooted in empowering others and making unique connections with his community- especially students. We even get an insider’s scoop into his thought process on building educational content and the “It’s Dr. Mordecai” brand and ways of leading online. 

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Josie & The Podcast is proudly sponsored by:

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Online conversation is a reality, and the digital presence of your campus executives says a lot about your university to those who matter most—from current students to staff and alumni to prospective students, and beyond.

That’s why this year, I partnered with Campus Sonar to explore the digital presence of 194 higher ed presidents and vice presidents over 6 months to help improve the industry’s understanding of digital leadership trends and get higher ed professionals thinking about the benefits of an effective executive digital presence. You can get your copy of the study at info.campussonar.com/higheredexecs.

Notes from this Episode

Leadership in Education Monday Video

Discovering Your True North

Dr. Ski, President of Harrisburg Community College

Gordon Gee, President of West Virginia University 

Edward Waters College

HiphopPrez- Walter Kimbrough, President of Dillard University

#HigherEd

#Education

#SApro

More about Mordecai:

Dr. Mordecai I. Brownlee currently serves as the Vice President for Student Success at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas. In addition, he serves as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Charleston and Morgan State University. As the Vice President of Student Success, Dr. Brownlee has steered St. Philip’s College to its highest enrollment to date at over 13,000 students enrolled and the College’s largest graduation class in its 121-year history. 

Dr. Brownlee received his Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Lamar University, where he earned the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award for his research regarding Texas House Bill 5 and the future of higher education. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication & Political Science from Houston Baptist University. His Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts is from Kingwood College and he holds an advanced graduate certification in Community College Leadership from Dallas Baptist University. 

Dr. Brownlee resides in San Antonio, Texas with his wife of 13 years, Daphne Brownlee, their son, Mordecai Jr. and their daughter, Lauren Machelle.

Connect with Mordecai:

Twitter: @ItsDrMordecai

LinkedIn: LinkedIn

Instagram: @itsdrmordecai

Facebook: Dr. Mordecai Ian Brownlee

Connect with Josie

Twitter: @josieahlquist 

LinkedIn: /JosieAhlquist

Instagram: @josieahlquist 

Facebook: Dr. Josie Ahlquist 

Email: josie@josieoldsite.meljudsonclientportal.com

Website: www.josieahlquist.com

About Josie and The Podcast

In each episode, Dr. Josie Ahlquist – digital leadership author, researcher, and speaker – connects tech and leadership in education. This podcast will bring you leaders on-campus and online.

From Senior Vice Presidents on Snapchat, YouTubers receiving billions of views and new media professionals. All through the lens of social media and leadership. Josie hopes you will not only learn from these digital leaders but also laugh as we all explore how to be our best selves online and off.

Thanks for listening! Please subscribe to receive the latest episodes, share widely and let me know you’d checked it out!

Josie: Hello and welcome to Josie and The Podcast. This is Josie Ahlquist and I am so excited you are joining me today. This podcast features leaders who share everything from their latest tweet to their leadership philosophy. My goal is to connect tech and leadership with heart, soul and lots of substance. Josie and The Podcast is sponsored by Campus Sonar, a social listening agency for higher education. Online conversation is reality and the digital presence of your campus executives says a whole lot about your university to those that matter most, from current students to staff and alumni to prospective students and beyond.

That’s why this year I partnered with Campus Sonar to explore the digital presence of 194 higher ed presidents and vice presidents over six months to help improve the industry’s understanding of digital leadership trends and get higher ed professionals thinking about the benefits of an effective executive digital presence. You can get your copy of the study at info.campussonar.com/higheredexecs. Josie and The Podcast is also part of a pretty great higher ed podcasting network called ConnectEDU. Learn more about us and our shows at connectedu.network.

All right, let’s dig into my amazing featured guest for today. Dr. Mordecai Brownlee currently serves as the Vice President for Student Success at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas. In addition, he serves as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Charleston and Morgan State University. As the Vice President of Student Success, Dr. Brownlee has steered St. Philip’s College to its highest enrollment to date, at over 13,000 students and the College’s largest graduation class in its 121-year history.

Mordecai received his Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Lamar University where he earned the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award for his research regarding Texas House Bill 5 and the future of higher education. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management and Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Political Science from Houston Baptist University. Mordecai resides in San Antonio, Texas with his wife of 13 years, Daphne Brownlee their son, Mordecai Jr. and their daughter, Lauren Machelle.

A few quick highlights from our conversation to get you all amped up. You’ll find how despite his widely used and super engaged platforms, it all started with trial and error, paying attention and listening through social listening and building those skills over time. He to this day reaches out to his audience to ask questions, even via direct messages to really get to the heart of why folks are engaging with him. He uses his students to be the ones to tell him what platforms they are on or not. So again, really tapping into that social listening and engaging both on and offline.

You’re also going to see from Mordecai all kinds of role modeling, whether you’re listening in as a graduate student, or a fellow vice president or president, it’s all about two way communication. He’ll give lots of examples about that. Why you should meet students exactly where they are, and especially with students that they can smell a sale a mile away. So you’ll hear more about that. You can find, of course, both of us on all the socials. All of our accounts are linked in the show notes, Twitter, I’m @josieahlquist. The podcast also is on Twitter, JosieATPodcast. You can find Mordecai, @ItsDrMordecai.

Everything we talk about from resources, people and posts is found on my website, josieahlquist.com/podcast. Enjoy.

Josie: Well, I am thrilled to welcome to Josie and The Podcast today a very special guest, Dr. Mordecai Brownlee, ItsDrMordecai. We’re going to dig all into that. Welcome to the show.

Mordecai: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me, Josie. Appreciate it.

Josie: My pleasure, and I always kick off every interview with talking about your bio, but not the bio that I just read, the bio on one of your social media platforms and one of them you listed out Husband, Father, Mentor, VP for #StudentSuccess at @GoSPC, Adjunct Faculty, #HigherEd, #Education, I love it, #Comm_College, #CommunityCollege, #APhiA. I’m going to say that wrong. Is it APhiA-

Mordecai: Yep, APhiA, that’s right.

Josie: … I did it, APhiA and then you’ve got an emoji. You packed a lot into that which I love.

Mordecai: That’s right, that’s right.

Josie: Tell us any more about any of those things?

Mordecai: Yeah. So I’ll start off with the first, husband. Been married, now 13 years, met my wife freshman year of Community College, and so yeah, two children. So, that brings about being a father. Mentor is just something I just, it speaks to who I am and what I believe is one of my purposes put on this earth to do and then I currently serve as the Vice President for Student Success at St. Philip’s College. We’re celebrating 121 years this year, and we’re the only historical black college, that is a Hispanic-Serving Institution in the nation. So really proud about being able to serve this institution. Adjunct faculty, so I teach for two institutions, adjunct Morgan State University out of Baltimore, and the University of Charleston out of Charleston, West Virginia, and then of course, the hashtag, it’s all about the hashtag. So higher education, education, and then Community College and two different forms as they track on social media. So Comm_College and Community College and then I’m a member of the fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. So that’s where the APhiA comes in.

Josie: Fantastic. You just get one big snapshot right in your bio, and even you starting out choosing husband, father first, we do get to see your family show up in your celebrations, in your feeds. So it if feels like I’m all caught up in the life of Mordecai. And your teaching, so are those online adjunct? Are you teleporting or?

Mordecai: Yes, yes, yes. You’re right, teleporting and all that good stuff, hologram. But at University of Charleston so I teach online for them. I’ve been teaching, actually previously I served as the Chief Student Affairs Officer for the University of Charleston. So when I was living in Charleston with the family, I actually taught NC, which was an amazing experience to kind of start off your day teaching, then go to the administrative part of your day and then I would wrap up my nights teaching and so it was just a really cool portfolio and opportunity.

Mordecai: Did that NC and then the institution was nice enough to move my business courses online. So I teach out of the School of Business for them, and then for Morgan State, I teach graduate program, masters of Community College Leadership Program. Looking forward to teaching again for them in the spring. I teach online for them as well.

Josie: Nice. Got to love some online faculty. I am one as well.

Mordecai: There you go.

Josie: You are very active in all places and spaces, especially social media, hence why I brought you on. This isn’t a trick, so you can take out your phone if you need it, because I know that you tweet a lot. But I want to know, what was your most recent post that you’re willing to share?

Mordecai: Okay.

Josie: And tell us why you shared it?

Mordecai: I probably my most recent post was this morning. So I do my best to post for sure Monday through Friday, Saturdays and Sundays kind of reserved for just special events or if I’m hanging out with the family, we’re having a cool time. But Friday’s typical or Friday message that I send out on Twitter. So it says, “Happy Friday, educators. Remain focused on ensuring the success of your students, finish the work week strong and enjoy your weekend.” And so I like on Fridays to always give a nice pep message to fellow educators but also encouraging them to do something during the weekend time of thing. Last weekend, on Friday, I focused on just saying, hey, spend some time with your family or some good self time.

Just encouraging folks to continue to keep their family as well as their self care of focus because we give so much of ourselves as educators, student affairs, professionals, support staff, you name it, we just give so much of ourself on a regular basis where you have to fill yourself back up and take care of yourself.

Josie: And I find that you are one of the few that I have found doing this consistently. This inspiration and education through both the written word and videos. Your community is really responding to that, at least in the feed. Do you have a specific strategy or framework for social?

Mordecai: Yeah, it took a lot of trial and error, right? So a lot of trial and error. But now the strategy is essentially intentionality and consistency. And so for me, the intentionality is soul alignment with who it is that I fill that my purpose is as an educator and as a person. And so my personal mission statement is to build systems and build people. That’s honestly what I feel I was put on this earth to do, is to build systems and build people. And so part of that then is it’s about building systems, meaning building out processes, and as an educator building out the experiences, there’s too many experiences that empower students, then my messaging reflects that, and if it’s about building people, my messaging reflects that on all the platforms and just even on a regular day-to-day. If you worked in the office next to me, that’s what you would probably experience 99.9% of the time for me is just that stance.

And so the intentionality of the alignment of my personal and professional purpose and mission, and then essentially consistency because one thing that I’ve learned and watch, when I was building out what I wanted my platform to look like on social media was is that there was just across the board tends to be a lack of consistency among fellow educators. And so you get the special events and you get especially the rush weeks and the welcome back weeks and the homecomings, but what about in between time and so essentially, as they teach us as researchers, it’s a gap. And so you got to fill the gap and so I just want to encourage other educators to do the same.

Josie: Love it. Well, let’s take it way back though before we get into the nitty gritty and awesomeness of all the things that you’re doing on and offline. Is your earliest tech memory, can you remember little Mordecai’s first technology memory?

Mordecai: Yeah. My first technology memory was the old Macintosh computers with the floppy disk.

Josie: Oh, yeah.

Mordecai: And my mother was a school teacher. And so while she was wrapping up, she taught in special education, while she was wrapping up teaching, I had usually about an hour to myself on this Macintosh, and there was this game, you may know it, you may not, Josie. It was called the Oregon Trail.

Josie: Oh, boy, yeah.

Mordecai: And it was on a floppy disk. And my life’s purpose at that particular time was to try to figure out how to beat the game without my family dying of chicken pox and it was essentially my entire focus, and so that’s my first tech memory.

Josie: Yeah, there was many of hours on that game. My mom also was a teacher and jumping on a computer when she wasn’t having me cut out laminations, as a memory.

Mordecai: There you go.

Josie: Awesome, love it. Well, to talk about today, kind of big picture about your leadership in your brand and thanks for sharing your purpose about building systems and people I think that really is also big picture and important to state. But you’ve definitely got your systems and your people in place, from your website, your blog, you’ve got designs that you use within videos on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, you got things in place. Where did the brand, so ItsDrMordecai is something that you’ve kind of really placed. You’ve got some of your usernames are that. So what was the story behind kind of doubling down on that and the content that’s came since?

Mordecai: Yeah. So the quick version of the story is, is that when I joined the University of Charleston, I had started a new Twitter page, because my Twitter page at that time was personal. And I said, I really want to engage with social media, and I’m one of those folks that just kind of sitting on the sidelines and I watch and I see what’s going on. And right before I took that appointment, I said, social media definitely as being educated, being a higher education. I want to jump full face into this, I really want to do some good work with this and make this a part of the ways in which students can reach out to me. And so I started a new page, and it was ItsDrMordecai. And so Ian, which is my middle name was the name I went by all the way through school, up until college, and so Mordecai became just what folks called me. It wasn’t Ian anymore.

Once I kind of got to college, and then right around that time, I had earned my doctorate and so it just kind of stuck for folks. They wouldn’t call me Dr. Brownlee, they will call me Dr. Mordecai. I said, okay, well let me just kind of work this ItsDrMordecai thing and turn it into my Twitter. Fast forward, I joined University of Charleston, and one of the communication strategies when I met with the marketing team was, they said, “Listen, what do you think about doing videos? We saw you kind of did some videos at your last school? What do you think about kind of making it a monthly announcement thing?” And so we ran with it. And so it came time to say, “Well, what’s going to be the title of this?” And marketing team said, “We’ll call ItsDrMordecai show.” So that’s what we did. And I would go around campus, in different places around campus and interview students, and folks really watched it and it was better than just reading content on the email.

Fast forward a little bit, I turned it into a personal hobby. I said, okay, I’m doing this for the school but what if I kind of split this out and that whole mentorship piece to build people piece. I said what if I start just kind of blabbing. Now what I mean by that, typically in the academy, it’s all about publishing. Are you writing? By no means I’m I trying to change the face of that, because writing definitely still serves its purpose. But what about bite sized information that folks can take, grab with and run with and maybe use for the day or you give your perspective or perceptions on certain things, and folks get a chance to think about it. And so that’s what the premise of the show and the whole first season became, and I released a truckload of videos working with a friend there in production, Rob Burwell and kind of begin through trial and error to say, okay, well, what platforms are really taking this on? Because at first I loaded everything up to YouTube.

Saw some activity, not as much but then I really started to say, okay, well what if I just do some bite size videos for Twitter, Instagram, and that really started working, and then essentially focusing on longer content for YouTube. And so it was just trial and error and paying attention. Sorry, if that was a long answer, Josie but I was trying to narrow it down.

Josie: No, but I think you really summarized the tweetable takeaway is its experimentation, trial and error and paying attention. That for some series and some people and personas, YouTube can really take off but certain types of content and messaging might work somewhere else. But you just have to kind of try it and see how it goes there, and it definitely seems like your Twitter videos are very well received and timely.

I think the other thing that I heard already a couple times is that you’re not doing this alone. Even having some marketing professionals kind of nudge you into that, ItsDrMordecai, being the ones that push you out around campus to do messaging, and then maybe even bringing other folks on to help produce some of the videos. So I think that’s important for folks to hear too, because you might just look at your feed and you be like, how does he do this? Or like your YouTube series or something? So I appreciate you sharing that.

Mordecai: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, now it’s to the point when I lived in Charleston, we had a television studio and I would go and actually if you look at season one of ItsDrMordecai on YouTube, we were recording that behind a green screen. But once I took the job here in Texas, I could no longer do that. And so essentially, I just paid the extra few or call a few dollars because these iPhones are expensive. I paid the money for an iPhone and just started recording that and then I would Dropbox the videos over to my friend back in Charleston, West Virginia and he would put it together but on Twitter and Instagram essentially that’s just me turning on the camera and going forward.

It’s the YouTube series that we actually put a little production behind and kind of splice it and put it all together with a nice intro and outro.

Josie: This is a fantastic example. So thank you for just doing these for me, right? So I can show them. Because sometimes even when you say video, you do think about those highly produced things on YouTube with opening and closings and the whole deal. These leadership and education videos that you’re doing on Twitter, you really are flipping the camera towards you and you’re just talking. You can tell you’re lifting your hand up and you can see your office in the background or wherever you are. It’s such a good example of not only the logistics of it, but they’re very, very well received and this isn’t all about likes and retweets, right? But you don’t want to just put content out that no one’s really engaged with. So-

Mordecai: That’s right.

Josie: … You’ve already started to tell us a little bit about the background of you doing these videos and how they’re showing up both on Twitter and Instagram. What are some examples that you have made? You had found were really well received or are some of your favorites?

Mordecai: Yeah. So I mean, the video was something again, trial and error. I wanted to try just the stand up videos on Monday mornings. And I have to be honest, again, it goes back to paying attention, right? And I’m one of those folks, if I’m going to release content, I want to know when’s the best time to release content? What are the best days? And it just so happened to where there’s so many different articles out there that talked about on Twitter, that Monday mornings tend to be a good time and so it just made sense to say, okay, well, what if I started doing these Monday morning videos and releasing that while folks are either just showing up to the office, just showing up to the school and just try to help folks set the day out.

What I had did previously, Josie was is I was just posting words, but that wasn’t really catching on. And so I said, Well, let me break out the camera and it just worked. And so the Monday morning videos have been pretty great and very responsive. Great response on that. Instagram is still something I’m still trying to figure out to be very honest with you. I still release the videos there but Instagram is ever changing, and so now you can actually release longer videos. So one of the things I’m playing with is taking the content that I did from YouTube, those longer videos and throwing it on Instagram and kind of seeing how that does now, because they used to be a one minute limit on Instagram, and now you can release pretty long videos now on Instagram. So we’ll see what happens with that.

Yeah, just trial and error and the videos have been well and then essentially, that whole social media piece that folks decide to retweet or chime in. I want to retweet their comments as a way to tell them thank you for interacting with me. And so I think it’s important to remember that educators, anyone that’s taking the time to listen to this is that the communication can’t just be one way. So if you’re committing yourself to do this, then be ready for two way responsiveness, and that will go a long way with folks that are paying attention to you.

Josie: And do you have a built out framework of what you’re going to talk about each week? Or do you find that inspiration while you’re driving into work that day?

Mordecai: You nailed it, you nailed it. What am I feeling, right? I mean, so my days typically start at 4 A.M. I do my meditation, my prayer, kind of walk around the house to water my plants, feed my dog, and then I go to the gym, and then I’m usually listening to something that’s for me, that I need at that particular of time. Waking up saying, I need to hear this or it maybe music, it maybe a podcast, it maybe a book, but I’m listening and kind of feeding myself intellectually, and then as I’m driving to work, then it’s kind of like, okay, this is where I’m at and this is what I’m feeling and just kind of turn it on and just go for it.

Josie: Wow, 4 A.M, that is admirable. I love it.

Mordecai: Yeah, yeah.

Josie: Your strategy isn’t so much content built up but you know you’ve got your Mondays you’re going to do that video, Friday is going to be that kind of send out inspirational. Do you have anything else that falls within the week that you always are going to release?

Mordecai: So I know then that I’m going to do my good morning educators post every morning of the work week. So the Monday I’ll do the video, and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I will do the good morning educators post and so that again, it was just something that just ended up sticking and working, and I like it. It’s just a great way to… I mean, it’s who I’m talking to. I want you to have a good morning and I’m talking to educators and so it just kind of stuck as the intro of these messages, and so the other thing again and I go back to paying attention. The other thing I started realizing that other folks are sharing with me is because I was curious to know, I would DM folks, how are you finding my post? Because I’m not following you, and you’re not following me.

So one of the folks essentially told me, well, I’m paying attention to your hashtags, and so #Education and #HigherEd are pretty active. And then the other thing that someone told me through DM was is that I just do a keyword search for anything that has education in it. It just made sense then for the start of my post to address educators and for me to ensure that I was closing out my post with the hashtags of my audience, it just made sense, and that’s the strategy behind it, consistency. My weekends I really dedicate to family posts. So if you’ve ever seen some of my weekend posts, I’ll do the #Family or if I’m spending time with family, like I took my son to the basketball game this week. I did a #Family, and so that’s really when I’m promoting is educators, family, self care and so that’s what I make sure that the content represents on a consistent basis.

Josie: I appreciate you sharing how you did a little bit your own digging in research about how folks were finding you to not hesitate about reaching out through direct messaging tools of platforms and then using some of those platform dynamics like hashtags on Twitter are still especially highly used in education, there’s some of the logistics strategy stuff that I think really helped you as well. So within leadership and social media, it’s not, again, all about the likes and retweets or the number of followers but paying attention to what works matters. Because I mean, you wake up at four but I’m sure you don’t stay up till midnight. Your time is limited and you need some sleep.

Mordecai: Very much so.

Josie: But so your Twitter account, you’re highly followed 26,000 followers and these videos are well received and shared. So that is a hint for us to pay attention to is something you’re doing is really being well received. So has there been anything else on that platform since it is so popular in higher ed for leaders to have a presence there? Has there been anything else that you’ve done that’s really garnered that type of respect and connection with so many folks, even outside of your campus?

Mordecai: Yeah, I mean, it’s been so cool to this now be viewed as a way that fellow educators are finding value as well as encouragement in. It’s so cool, Josie to go to a conference and folks to say, “Hey, I’m so sorry to bother you, are you Dr. Mordecai?” That is the coolest thing to me. Because I mean, at that point, it’s kind of like yes, let’s talk. There’s something that I’ve put out there, that’s resonated with you. And it’s all about building that community, encouraging one another. And so I’ve really and greatly have enjoyed that. I would encourage just fellow educators, student affairs, professionals, administrators, you name it, that are looking to build their platform, this was not my initial purpose. And I go back to when I started that Twitter page, ItsDrMordecai. It was coming as a new dean of students, Chief Student Affairs Officer for the University of Charleston and I wanted a means in which students knew that you could get ahold of me if you needed to.

And I’m going to be honest with you, Josie, it really worked well, because were a residential campus, and I practically lived on campus. I could walk out of my backyard, and I was on campus. And so whether it would be night situations or moment of crisis, or just students looking for help and reaching out, students would DM me, I would get the message and all of a sudden, I’m there, I’m ready to interact and get them the help that they needed in and get them plugged in, and it was just such a joy.

The students would respond back by saying, “Wow, it’s really cool that we can reach out to you through this platform.” And so I think that the takeaway I would hope that fellow educators here is, is that too often we try to get students to bottleneck them into the systems that we prefer of communication, and we can’t do that. You can’t do that. And so I do understand it, there are processes, and I get all of that. But if your goal is to educate and your goal is to empower, then find out the means in which to do that, and it only works when it’s working, and so if you haven’t heard from students or received emails, that’s a problem. And it is the students does not view as being responsive.

Do they not realize that you are a resource? Or do they have another means in which they want to communicate? And so my game became, let me find out how you want to communicate with me, and that became Instagram and Twitter. And that’s what I’ve just been running with for these past several years.

Josie: There was, it’s a lot of quotable in there. I can’t wait to share. Yeah, we’re on specific methods of communication that we just expect students to come along with us, what we’ve been doing maybe via email or a newsletter or something. Is the goal to just get folks to adopt things that we’ve always been doing or for them to actually receive and be impacted by the message. So you’re a great example of that.

Mordecai: Thank you.

Josie: Any other tips for Twitter or Instagram that you’ve been picking up with your experimentation and paying attention?

Mordecai: Yeah, not really. I mean, the beauty about social media and these platforms, Josie, you know this, I mean, you’re the guru of it. It’s always evolving, and so I think that paying attention component, it’s like a relationship, right? You just can’t put it on automatic, you got to do something to nurture it, right?

Josie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mordecai: And so it’s that same idea. Ever so often I kind of look at, I do a search for what’s going on with Twitter, what’s going on with activity feeds and what’s shifting? Are there some other platforms? And there are a ton of other platforms out there. I’ve just found that I’ve gotten more bang for my buck on these platforms that are utilized by students. And one of the reasons why I don’t post a lot of the same content on Facebook, for instance, is because my students were the ones that told me, my mom and dad and grandparents are on Facebook, so I’m not really going to be on Facebook, and so I had to accept that, and so I didn’t really spend the energy in trying to put the material, the content out there on Facebook, because it was really initially students that I was going after or young professionals to encourage them.

And so I’ve just kind of stuck with that, and I ever so often will kind of put stuff on Facebook, but really at that point it’s colleagues, fellow colleagues and folks and friends of the family because I’m putting real family pictures on there and it’s still some of the stuff is public. But my point is, I really just want to see where the activity was and response was because that became the focus. I want to put good content out there for folks to encourage them along their path and journey.

Josie: Yeah, we’ve got new students on our campuses that don’t have Facebook accounts. But we’re still putting so much attention into that platform. So appreciate your reflection on that. I have seen some vice presidents create professional business pages on Facebook, just to then connect with parents and family members, because that’s who is reaching out to them the most and the choice to have a little bit of separation there. So I think that’s good to share.

I was just scrolling through a little bit of your Instagram. So would you say that’s where current and future students are connecting with you? Or who’s your audience there compared to Twitter?

Mordecai: Yeah, Instagram is a whole nother beast than Twitter, I personally feel, and so I’m still trying to figure out how to work Instagram in that manner to get the same kind of engagements going. I’ve really appreciated having future students, prospective students. It amazes me how many high schoolers are on Instagram and so as we begin to do the #GoSPC, which stands for, Go St. Philip’s College and our various recruitment marketing tactics, great response from high schoolers and I did a financial literacy coaching event not too long ago, and they were high school students there that we were helping them mentor through what we call financial literacy university and really helping them through some things and they really want me to tag them into what they had going on. And they were posting and tagging me and I was just cool to feel that interaction, right? Because I wasn’t getting that through Twitter as much-

Josie: No.

Mordecai: … As with the prospective students that I was getting through Instagram. So I’m like, yeah. I mean, now granted, the one piece about Instagram is understanding the content and the ties to content and so I do my best to still say, “Hey, if you want to tag me, be careful what you tagging me in.” Because Instagram just really can run off in terms of its recommendations and suggestions. But at the same time, it’s been fun. It’s been fun to interact and to receive the messages from fellow educators and graduate students too. I have received a several different messages from graduate students or folks looking to get into higher education through Instagram.

Josie: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep. I think you hit it right on the nose of the demographic. It’s teens, young adults, and what I say cool adults, like you and me.

Mordecai: I like that, I like that.

Josie: So, yeah, the grad students, the new professionals, those that are obviously wanting to engage in different ways like we are, and just the willingness to then potentially have a high school student tag you or connect with you. I had a theory that positions like yours and above and even like AVPs or we’re going to be part of the brand of the sale. We’re part of the package that a student or a family would be buying into, to make that choice about where to go and if your presence on Instagram is just another one of those invitations. They don’t have to wait for an open house or a workshop to see what their VP is going to be and look like to help their college careers.

Mordecai: And Josie I think you’re absolutely right. And I’m going to tell you my story to back that up. I remember I was making the transition from University of Charleston, and I was working one more student onboarding event. We were doing a move in or something, and I had a parent come up to me with their daughter and say, “I just heard that you’re leaving. We were following you,” kid you not. They told me, “we were following you on Twitter, and we’re going to hate that you’re not going to be here.” And I felt, like that really was oh, my goodness, and so at that point was my first point of understanding that it was the institution and what it was that I was supporting through the institution that began to build that rapport with that family.

So that was really a hard hit to say, oh, my goodness. Yeah, y’all are paying attention to what we’re saying. And so yes, I think their fellow colleagues, as you just said, fellow professionals need to understand you are a part of the sale, and I know some folks don’t like hearing that because we’re educators and we’re not selling anything. Yes, you are. You’re in the sale of opportunity and a pathway. And so there’s so many different pathways out there, and you want your institution to be the choice and selection. So it’s not about putting false images about what’s going at your campus. You don’t want to do that, you want to be ethical. But at the same time, folks want to know that they can build a relationship with you and that you’re going to be there to take care of their child.

Josie: So talking about child and Instagram. And again, you get a number of grad students doing professionals that might reach out to you and you really embrace this concept of being a mentor. One thing that I find, well a variety of levels within the field, trying to navigate and especially comes to a head within social media is this personal, professional, what to post, what not to post, boundaries and things like that. And I’m sure you have a framework in place which I’d be happy to hear. You do share very touching intimate moments from celebrating your anniversary. You had mentioned about with your son at the basketball game or his first day of kindergarten, what has been, I guess your thought process, your decision making as you weave those really important values and roles of your life that show up within your different digital feeds?

Mordecai: I feel it’s so important, Josie, to be genuine people, especially the millennial generation X, and certainly the Z generation, they can smell a sale a mile away. And what I mean by that, they can… You get a good sense of what’s not genuine when you’re dealing with online branding of self, and so I too have run across colleagues to where they brand themselves in such a manner to where when you get a chance to get to know them is like these are not the same people, and perhaps that’s too critical but at least for myself, I would say then it became very important that who you saw online was who you would see when there was nothing, no camera, no social media around. And so family is very important to me, caring for students and the empowerment of students is very important to me, encouraging others to be the best that they can be so they can be the best they can be for their students is very important to me. And so in terms of that balanced in, in terms of personal and professional to me is the same.

Everyone may not agree with that though. There’s some folks that want to give you the professional face and that’s what they want to provide for you, and they find safety in that and that they can then turn off and then go home and be who that person is at home and I get it because believe it or not by nature, I’m an introvert. It’s through the education I’ve had to learn to become an extrovert. So I’m the guy that can easily be by myself reading a book and listening to music, it’d be just fine and dandy. But when you’re out there, and you’re saying your in education, especially, then giving these images, the importance of providing images and interactions with students and fellow professionals to encourage them to do the same is so important because we need our students to see what balanced life looks like. And social media is that avenue to provide that.

There’s so many other images out there to get lost in, on what success could be or not be, what successful relationships could be and not be, from a money standpoint, to a lifestyle standpoint. And so, so many of these images, and in this content is tainted. So if you’re going to be in the game of social media and then be a part of this movement then understand you have a responsibility as an educator then to not just give these one sided views of what a productive citizen may look like. Provide that to your students, provide that to the community at large because you never know the impact that that content will have,. You’ll become, believe it or not, the example of what a healthy lifestyle looks like, a productive lifestyle looks like, a committed lifestyle looks like and you begin to help that student and individual shape what real success looks like.

Josie: If we were to break it down to different levels in the field knowing your path as a VP compared to a newer professional, would your message ever be different in how one can or cannot show up on social as a VP versus a newer professional that might not have some of the same education or nuances or privileges?

Mordecai: Yeah, I would say that it comes down to what is it that, I go back to intentionality, right? So I would say I go back to my time, my first job that I ever had full time in higher education as an academic advisor. I think that then if I was doing this thing, my focus would be essentially focused on students in their pathways and encouraging that. And speaking to that, because I know that. To talk about that genuineness, it’s so important to focus on matters that you know, because that’s the realm in which you can work and make influence. I feel if I were to be critical, there are some that attempt to jump into various realms that really aren’t what they do and if you pay close attention to it, it fizzes out or you essentially looks as though they’re writing these hashtag waves. And it’s not genuine. It’s kind of like okay, I’m trying to get attention. My way is like a kid that won’t be quiet in a quiet setting, it’s noisy.

It’s, I am doing my best to get your attention. Okay, great, you’ve got my attention. Now what additional content and strength of content do you have to this manner? Oh, no, I really don’t have anything. I just want you to look my way. Okay, dude, don’t waste my time. And so it’s why it’s interesting sometimes to watch some of these interactions with colleagues and younger professionals online, because they get into these debates and battles. And it’s like, okay, y’all is that what we want our students seeing? Is that what we want our community seeing? I totally get that there’s opportunities for intellectual conversation, but let’s be sure that those that don’t work in the field can get the same sense of intellectual conversation and not lack of positivity and a debate. And so I just, I don’t use the platform for that. But you can get lot of attention doing that thing and that’s not my thing. I would just to go back to your question of focus on what you know.

Focus on what you know, focus on what’s important to you, what’s genuine to you, work within that scope of your current portfolio and speak to that and that will go a long way.

Josie: Well, I think it simplifies it too. That you don’t have to pretend you know something more, have more or less experience, what are just the natural things that come to you that you’re interested in, inquisitive in? Because that’s how I started to use Twitter is I’d found those other folks that were really interested about social media and research and getting their doctorates and then we found each other, right?

Mordecai: There you go.

Josie: And it was genuine. It wasn’t this forced position either. I thank you for sharing your insight, it’s interesting and wherever moving ability to navigate it a variety of different position levels. It’s nice to have a variety of examples to pull from and I think the way that you use social may not fit for everyone but I think-

Mordecai: That’s right.

Josie: … Your consistency, you sharing your purpose behind it, those are clear cut paths for someone to then personalize for their own presence. So I’d share with you what I think is in the future for executives, they’ll be part of the entire package of the brand, getting way more support and strategy behind their digital platforms. What do you see as a future for social media and campus leaders and or what your plans are, even for the next year or six months into 2020 with your online presence?

Mordecai: I would say that, certainly within the next six months to a year, I mean, we’re talking 2020 at that point, it is so important that our students that are prospective students really get a sense of who it is that is going to be overseeing their student experience. So I would certainly encourage administrators, educators, the like, to get involved on social media, begin to really tell that story of the student experience at your campus and the value add of your position and role in supporting that student. And I think that for some folks it may be scary to say, okay, and you said it Josie, that they only have to do what I do. Where to get started? I would encourage you to begin to tag your school and include your school Twitter account and handles and Instagram handles on your post around campus and begin to become part of the story that’s being told about your institution and its student success story.

And then hopefully, fellow educators will get more involved and more comfortable with that storytelling, and then perhaps even begin to create content within their selves again, advancing the academy as a whole, if it’s so be it. But just consistently, telling their student success story and the value add of your institution through selfies and events, pictures, and getting students another opportunity to see what’s going on, it’s just going to be crucial. Beyond one year, Josie and I know that you and I’ve had this conversation online, it’s going to become not only just an added value, but it is going to be the norm as we move forward.

Years from now, college president and administrators really having that social media presence. As we move more into hybrid and online learning, they want to know more of who’s behind the textbook, they want to know more about who’s behind the desk or even seeing that on other realms of popular voting, if you will from a political standpoint. It’s more about who is the person that’s running that? Not what is your name and what’s your platform? Folks are really now trying to get a sense for the person behind the platform, and the same is in education. You kind of want to know, are you just giving me a good show, or do you really believe what you’re telling me and that’s all a part of the value proposition, I really believe, for these institutions as they tell their story and they recruit students.

Do you believe what you’re telling me? And are you living the mission of the institution and what you’re having me believe is going to be the next best step for me as a student at your institution?

Josie: Yeah, we live in an information economy that folks can find a whole lot out there or they’ll come to their own conclusions. So what about TikTok, Mordecai? I need to hear it.

Mordecai: TikTok. Remember I told you I kind of just sit down in the sidelines and I watch it and I’m watching TikTok?

Josie: Yeah.

Mordecai: I don’t know. The clock is still tick tocking, I’m watching it. I’m watching him, yeah.

Josie: That’s funny. I’ll be interested to see how the platform evolve for those that are comfortable on camera like you do with your Twitter leadership and education videos. I think the platform is going to evolve to that type of content where it’s like someone giving information. And that might be entertaining, right? It’s not all of a sudden you start dancing or anything, but I think it’ll start to evolve to different types of content. And that’s where I think, maybe especially for a student message instead of like, the message to educators is a message to teens and young adults like your commuters or something like that.

Mordecai: Well, you know what, to be quite honest with you, though. It’s kind of how I’m watching Snapchat, right?

Josie: Yeah.

Mordecai: Snapchat is one of those areas that I don’t see… It’s not my thing. However, some institutions are really killing it, I mean, they are doing a great job with the Snapchats, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around content that won’t be around after a certain amount of time. But I mean, for those that that works for I mean, man, by all means, utilize it, especially if your students are telling you that they’re paying attention to it.

Josie: Yeah, it’s been an interesting one, the trends and the patterns have shifted quite a bit. It’s not quite as stable I guess, for me to push people on to it. Especially with Instagram stories you can do, and then about the same audience is there as well, so. But it’s good to at least know things are out there. Well, as we start to wrap up, I’d love to hear if you have any resource recommendations that may or may be social media related or not, from books, articles people to follow?

Mordecai: Gosh, I’m looking at… So I’ve got one of these things in my office, Josie and I do it at institutions I’ve served at. So every book that I read, I line it up from one wall, and my goal is to make it touch the other wall. So I am looking at what I’m currently reading and what I’m working on. I think that there’s this book called Discovering Your True North. I would highly, highly, highly recommend that folks read Discovering Your True North. It’s really cool. I mean, it really begins to, if your someone that’s saying, as an educator, I want to get involved with social media and I want to make sure there’s some alignment in some other areas of my life. How does all this align? That Discovering Your True North is pretty cool because it’s going to walk you through, essentially strategic planning from a personal perspective and professional perspective outside the institution, which I think will help, I would only hope that it will give fellow educators an opportunity to say, okay, well, now I see the alignment in all of this and hopefully get involved.

You can’t go wrong with Malcolm Gladwell. I mean, from the Outliers to I’m currently reading now he’s got one called David and Goliath. I’m currently reading that now. In terms of social media and who I would recommend, Dr. Ski, he’s the president of Harrisburg Area Community College, Dr. Ski, I’m a fan. So I really enjoy Dr. Ski and what he’s able to put out in terms of content. Another president that I think does a pretty cool job, Gordon Gee, the president of West Virginia State University, excuse me West Virginia University, WVU.

So he does a great job of interacting with his students. I’ll tell you another institution I’ve been watching because it seems to have been I could be wrong, Josie. So this is just me talking. But it’s Edward Waters College has been an institution I’ve been watching, because they have a president. I believe he’s 39 years old, 39 and maybe 40 now, but I remember when he first took over on his presidency and gained his presidency. Part of that narrative was he said he was one of the first millennial presidents to land a presidency. And so his cabinet that he’s been hiring, I’ve been kind of watching this and it seems as though each and every one of them have a social media presence. That story being told at Edward Waters College and so that’s been very inspiring to watch as well. And so there are some other presidents out there doing a great job and administrators think of the Hip Hop Prez, the president of Dillard University out of Louisiana. Excuse me, maybe-

Josie: Walter.

Mordecai: … Is it Xavier or Dillard? Hold on. I’m going to get this wrong, Walter Kimbrough. Hold on-

Josie: Walter Kimbrough.

Mordecai: … What institution? Thank you.

Josie: Yeah, Dillard, yeah.

Mordecai: Dillard, thank you. I was about say that was really going to bug me if I said the wrong institution, but Dillard. He does a great job, and then he also is someone who believes in the publishing aspect of the Academy. And so there’s some great examples out there. I’ll just encourage folks to do a search on the hashtags, do a search on #HigherEd, do search on #Education or SApro or #StudentAffairs and see who’s out there. And pay attention to the rankings of who has top postings and who has top profiles, and then from there, you can kind of start digging around and seeing the content that’s out there.

Josie: Well, we’ll link all of those resources in the notes to the show and we will also keep an eye on your own path if the presidency is in the future for you. I think-

Mordecai: Dun dun dun.

Josie: … If not politics, I feel like you have quite the presence and I’m a big fan.

Mordecai: Thank you, Josie.

Josie: Well, so my last two questions I always save for last is, really brings us back to life and leadership. If you knew your next post was going to be your last, what would you want it to be about?

Mordecai: Family, the importance of family and the importance of finding your purpose. There’s the things that really matter, Josie, and I think that we should spend all of our attention as much as we can. Focusing on the things that really matter because everything else is noise. That’s what I would focus on.

Josie: Yeah, we can definitely get caught up in the noise. So very good reminder to have that clear purpose. Well, for now, you’re on multiple platforms, you’re going live and video and constant interaction, which I again, just I’m such a big fan. How would you describe your digital presence in the impact that you hope it is making on the world?

Mordecai: I hope that we are, and I say we because it’s the responsiveness of the content. I hope that we are creating content that inspires others. You never know what would someone was really dealing with and battling with mentally, as they say the battle is in the mind. And you never know what that person may have been battling with, that educator or that student that day. But if you have something out there that pulls them in, that encourages them, perhaps to go out and seek help or to seek the advice of others or make a decision in a manner that they previously weren’t thinking of doing, and now they’re thinking of moving in a more positive direction, or maybe someone needed that pep talk or that pep message before going in and tackling the challenge of the day or working in that low socio-economic environment. They need that, that continued encouragement.

I hope that this content is doing just that. As well as folks on the sidelines that are not educators that are saying, you know what, maybe education is the calling for me. Maybe I need to go into student affairs, maybe I can make more of an impact, or maybe that’s what I should be doing from the get go. So I hope that it’s encouraging, it’s empowering, it’s causing some to ask questions that they haven’t asked before, but all towards personal and intellectual growth and self purpose, yeah.

Josie: Well, it seems too fitting to not go full circle to share, because another tweet you sent, it was a number of days ago, but you said, “Good morning educators,” as you do, “despite the politics and challenges present you’re calling is to be an educator is more important. Don’t become distracted, keep empowering others.” And of course, you added some hashtags. And then there was someone that really resonated with that message. And she said, “I needed this!!!!” #FOCUS. That was really great to see that you don’t know the impact, but then sometimes you really do hear the impact and it just reminds you, you’re on the right track and I would definitely say Mordecai, you are on the right track.

Mordecai: Thank you, Josie. Thank you and thank you for what you do for the academy as well as our industry. We greatly appreciate the work.

Josie: Oh, my pleasure. Thanks for coming on this show. Such a treat. And I’m sure more to come for all the great stuff that you do on campus and online.

Mordecai: Thank you, Josie. Take care.

Josie: This was another interview that I of course wanted to go back and not press the stop record button because Mordecai and I got chatting even more after I pressed stop, but from what y’all were able to hear in this super engaging conversation. As I shared at the very top that Mordecai shared his trial and error and social listening and paying attention and asking questions, can really, really go a long way. But it also means you have to be willing to put yourself out there through his examples of videos on Twitter and on Instagram, he really is turning the camera on himself and learning each platform is taking a little bit different of a format and a style to it and he’s quite okay with being able to evolve and change as the platforms change as well.

I also liked how he said, “It’s social media is like a relationship, you can’t just put it on automatic, you have to do something to nurture it.” And what a wonderful philosophy to have, both in relationships we have with our students, our family members, our colleagues, our stakeholders, and you really can tell when that same intent and emotion is being applied in digital spaces. I also love how Mordecai can serve as a authentic and genuine and consistent role model for digital leadership. He shares across the board there seems to be a lack of consistency from other educators. There’s, of course, things like, Welcome Week and homecomings, the true test is the consistency within the gaps. And again, I think he’s showing a really cool way of how he’s been able to fill in those gaps.

So, for example, his strategies, he spelled out just about every day, what his plan is, and as simple as it is too, so I asked, “Well, what are you going to talk about in the video on that Monday? And he’s planning it on his drive in. How impressive he gets up at three or 4 A.M, goodness, that’s another research study about the morning and evening behaviors of senior executives. He also shares if you’re committing yourself to doing this, be ready for two way communication and I want to just shout that to the digital rooftops as well is, be excited and plan for interaction. I think that is the ultimate goal.

That’s the digital hug that we want to be ready to reciprocate is, it is difficult not only to get folks to connect, but to interact. And so when they do make sure that you are ready and excited and willing to do that, and his other note about to be genuine piece, especially if you tend to be doing a lot of promotions in your posts. He says people can smell a sale a mile away. So you really got to build that social proof to show them what that ROI is going to be and not the ROI is just a bulletin board of your feed.

And finally, a quote I wanted to highlight where he says, “We need our students to see what balanced life looks like.” Social media is the avenue to provide that and I’ve been educating a lot of current and aspiring executives about this idea of how we can balance out the types of content we put out there. Again, it’s not all promotional and informational, but how we can personalize your presence to document a day in the life, not every single thing in the day, and be able to share pieces of your story that again, make you just a little less intimidating, make you more approachable. You may forget having that title and that specific office location and even what you wear may be holding some community members back from connecting and building a relationship with you, even if they are people, students, family members, faculty, and so on that you actually do want to connect with the most.

So, so many great quotes came from this. I hope you were taking notes so you can head back to it. We now have transcripts to all season fours podcast episodes. So if you are looking for a specific, a nugget, you can head into my show notes and you can find the link to the transcripts there, of course, just a nod to make this a little bit more accessible as well. So, ItsDrMordecai, so epic to have you on. Finally, I am a big fan of the work that you are doing and so great to have you on the show. Thanks for taking time to give us some of those reasons why it’s important for you to lead online. Even more, thanks for giving us real insider’s look into your content creation process and leadership. It really is epic.

Please subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any future episodes and share it with those that you love and care about and want to know more about digital engagement and leadership. These can be your colleagues, your friends, heck, maybe even your family. Join the conversation online, tweet at the podcast JosieATPodcast or I am @josieahlquist on all the socials. And remember all those show notes can be found at josieahlquist.com/podcast.

If you really like this episode and the show, I have one small favor. Okay, keep listening, because that’s amazing. But iTunes makes it super simple to just open the app and click on a few stars or five stars and say that you enjoyed the show. You can also write a few words if you’re into that as well. Whatever other podcasting platform your users also some directions typically in there to get you to where you need to be. Those ratings help folks find this show and that’s my goal. It’s not for the data, it’s for the reach and the impact that I hope a show like this, a very unique show, will make.

Of course, I want to give a thank you to my podcast sponsor, Campus Sonar. Check them out at campussonar.com and if you want to learn more about all the work I do as an executive coach, consultant and speaker, well, all that is on my website, josieahlquist.com. Sending digital hugs, loves and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and The Podcast.

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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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