Hobart and William Smith Colleges currently have four students interning for the City of Geneva, coordinating the city’s Department of Media and Communications under the direction of Matt Horn, Geneva City Manager.
For course credit, Luke Esselen ’11, Grant Palermo ’11, Chris Legaspi ’12 and Willis Stephens ’12 have been spending several hours each week trying, as a recent article in the Finger Lakes Times reports, “to improve internal communications within City Hall and with city offices located elsewhere, such as public works, police and recreation; and to improve communication between city government and the public.”
Esselen, who designed the program, hopes to have the department set up so that it can be left to other students to run without much modification after he graduates. He started working with City Officials last fall on a Community Based Research project under the direction of Assistant Professor of Media and Society Leah Shaffer.
The full article is reprinted below.
Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010
Finger Lakes Times
City Status Updates
Hobart Students running new media department
By David L. Shaw
GENEVA – The city of Geneva on Facebook and Twitter? It may not be as farfetched as it once might have seemed.
Why? Because the city has four Hobart College students, all savvy in the ways of social electronic media, in charge of its new Department of Media and Communications.
Mayor Stu Einstein has given up his third-floor office at City Hall in favor of a much smaller office to make way for the new department.
“It’s fine with me. It’s for a good cause,” Einstein said.
The new department is staffed by the students at no cost to the city. They are doing it for course credit.
Junior Luke Esselen of Bristol, R.I., is director of Media and Communications. He’s joined by junior Grant Palermo of New York City and sophomores Chris Legaspi of Long Island and Willis Stephens of Brewster.
Their job has two objectives: To improve internal communications within City Hall and with city offices located elsewhere, such as public works, police and recreation; and to improve communication between city government and the public.
Esselen, who designed the program, spends 12 to 13 hours a week at City Hall. The other three spend about five hours a week there.
Esselen said the first step he’s proposing for improving internal communication is to set up Facebook pages for all those working in City Hall.
They will be secure and available only inside City Hall. “Unity of message is the key. They should all be on the same page,” he said.
He said art students at Hobart and William Smith have been approached about a contest to design a new logo for printed material.
The communications effort will also involve a Facebook page for the city, followed by setting up a Twitter account for people to sign up to for vital information.
“[City Manager] Matt Horn asked us to check out the Web site for the place he worked before coming here, Sandy Springs, Georgia. We checked it out and it’s very good, something we’re looking to model Geneva’s Web site on,” Esselen said.
The students also are planning to improve signage throughout City Hall to be more useful and viewer-friendly. That includes the building’s directory on the main floor.
“Department heads will be asked to give us hot topics of important information that we will be getting out through various electronic media, such as e-mail ‘blasts’ to a wide number of people,” Esselen said. A future focus will be an upgrade of the city’s Web site. Esselen said many more useful links can be added to the site for people to click on for important information.
The department is under Horn’s direction.
“This is a very unique partnership between the city and the Colleges,” he said. “The students are doing this for credit. It meets their needs and it meets the city’s needs. I’m looking forward to the things they will be doing.”
Einstein said the students should be a “great asset” in terms of internal communications with city departments and external communication, as well.
“City departments should know what other departments are doing and people need to know what their government is doing. This should help achieve both of those goals,” Einstein said. “It’s also a good opportunity for the students to immerse themselves into the community where they live much of the year.”
Einstein also said he can’t argue with the price tag.
“It’s great that it doesn’t cost the city, but it’s really something we can’t afford not to do,” he said. By the time Esselen graduates in May 2011, he hopes to have the department set up so that it can be left to someone else to run without much modification.
“I agree that this office can be a good opportunity for students and good for the city in getting out key information,” Esselen said.