by Amber Owens

In July of 2018, I accepted a job as the Social Media Manager for a small private university in Indiana. I was brand new to the field, and the position was brand new for the university. The members of our marketing team had been balancing social media amidst all their other duties, and when I arrived, they gave me all the passwords and left me to my own devices. It was a little terrifying and a lot of responsibility, but fortunately, my boss and team were incredibly supportive and understanding as I learned the ropes and tried to effectively wrangle years of social media chaos. On top of this, we rolled out a major, multi-million dollar re-brand within my first 30 days on the job, so not only was I learning about our audiences, our history, and the structure of our university brand, but I was also trying to figure out how to marry that information with a lot of new and exciting changes. It was a lot to take in, and most days I felt like I was barely keeping up.
As a somewhat new employee I felt uncomfortable asking for professional development dollars, so when I saw something about the 2019 eduWeb Scholarship for Developing Professionals pop up on Twitter, I applied and crossed my fingers. I didn’t let my hopes get too high, as I figured that I would probably be the least qualified of all the applicants, but lo and behold, I was selected.

It was a life-changing experience. Getting to hear from other social media experts in higher education felt a lot like coming home. I was encouraged to hear that I wasn’t alone in the things I dealt with on the job– there was an entire community of people out there who were just like me. Not only was I validated and understood, but I was welcomed. I expected to feel like an impostor in a room full of geniuses, but I didn’t; instead I felt both recognized and inspired.

During my time at the conference, I took part in presentations that both supported the work I was already doing and stimulated my creative side. I came back to my office with pages and pages of notes and ideas, ready to hit the ground running, and my team offered nothing but support. Since returning home, I’ve been able to roll out several new university-wide projects, and I’ve also built connections with our students on a deeper level than ever before. I can easily say that not a week goes by where I don’t reference something that I learned or heard at eduWeb 2019, and my university has benefitted so much from it.

Attending eduWeb as a scholarship recipient opened my eyes to so many opportunities that were at my fingertips, ready for the taking, and the perspective that I found in those presentations and discussions with other professionals was more than I ever could have hoped for out of my first conference experience. Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to attend, and I would probably still be feeling somewhat alone in my job. This year, a new group of scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to have their career transformed by eduWeb, just like I did, so if you’ve been thinking about applying but have hesitated, I can only say this: there is no reason why you shouldn’t, and every reason why you should.

Amber Owens is the Social Media Manager at Indiana Tech and a recipient of the 2019 eduWeb Scholarship for Developing Professionals.