In an effort to become more relatable to the students he aims to represent, newly-minted College Dean Paul Sniegowski has created a Snapchat account.
Sniegowski formally became dean on July 1, taking over for former College Dean Dennis DeTurck who stepped down last spring. The biology professor, who has been described by his colleagues and students as particularly approachable, sat down with College Dean’s Advisory Board Co-Chairs and College juniors Emily Lurie and Morgan Savige in August to discuss his goals.
The 22 students who make up DAB work alongside various faculty members and administrators, including Sniegowski, to represent College students' concerns. Lurie said one of Sniegowski's primary goals coming into the semester was to build a social media presence to make himself more relatable to students.
During his tenure, DeTurck, who was also the faculty master of Riepe College House, was known for hosting weekly "cookie nights" at the college house. Students lined up religiously outside his apartment every Wednesday for free cookies and milk. To replicate that close relationship with students, Sniegowski turned to social media.
After debating between several different social media platforms with DAB members and his children, the dean decided on Snapchat — and signed up as "sniegowskisnaps."
"We thought Instagram was too formal, and there’s a degree of separation because you never know if he’s doing it or if it’s someone in the College office," Savige said, adding that the group also considered other factors such as the fact that the dean already has a Facebook page and that few Penn students regularly use Twitter.
Now, Sniegowski has his own Bitmoji and documents his daily activities on his Snapchat story.
"He’s trying to be relatable, so he’ll Snapchat his bike rides in the morning — or even one time, he Snapchatted his donut crawl," Lurie said, referring to a day last month when he traveled across Center City to try different kinds of donuts.
Lurie and Savige said the dean's initiatives are aimed at making students feel connected to Penn's administration.
“Penn’s a big place and it’s not always is easy to feel like your voice is being heard,” Lurie said.
Disconnection between students and administrators has been an important concern on campus this semester. In an attempt to address challenges such as natural disasters, political instability, and student deaths, Penn's top administrators organized a "Campus Conversation" in October. However, some students felt that the actual event lacked clear and direct channels of communication between administrators and students.
So far, DAB has arranged for Sniegowski to interact directly with students in a weekly event called "Snacks with Sniegowski." The event, which happens every Tuesday in the lounge of Provost Tower in the Quad, allows students to hang out and eat snacks while getting to know the dean. Last month, DAB also collaborated with TableTalk to host a CampusCouches event called "Meet the Dean" on College Green.
On top of organizing events with Sniegowski, DAB committees work on issues including mental health, club dues, alumni relations, student outreach, policies relating to examinations, and dean-student interactions.
In the mental health committee, the current goal is to deconstruct PennFace while broadening the number of resources that exist on campus beyond Counseling and Psychological Services, Lurie said. She said DAB members hope to be an intermediary between students and administrators by making relationships easier to form and maintain.
“We’re not limiting any student from going to the faculty directly,” Lurie said. “However, I don’t think a lot of students do that on their own. We, as the board, are giving students the means for creating those relationships.”