Patricia Dugan joined UC Merced's Facebook page while she was deciding whether she wanted to attend the university.
Online, she found a thriving community of students, faculty, alumni and university supporters talking about UC Merced's achievements, lifestyle and events, as well as occasionally debating politics. Through the fan page, she learned about the campus' way of life and saw that it would be a good fit for her. The vibrant online presence was one more reason why Dugan wanted to come to UC Merced.
"To be quite honest, it gives us a sense of a modern personality," said Dugan, who's working toward a bachelors of science in management . "(A Facebook page) is critical these days."
UC Merced's Facebook page boasts more than 2,000 fans and continues to grow. The university is working to grow the number of followers and encourages everyone to suggest their friends become fans of the UC Merced page.
The page is among the social network sites administered by the Office of Communications, which wants to foster an engaged place for discussions and keep people informed about what's happening on campus. Monday through Friday, there's a question-of-the-day meant to spark discussions about life, academics and the community. Stories of interest are also posted.
Besides engaging in discussions, Dugan has made helpful connections with people she'd otherwise probably not meet. One day, she recognized on campus a math major who had just recently won an award, which she read about on the Facebook page. She went up and introduced herself. He ended up tutoring her in her pre-calculus class as finals approached.
Dugan checks the page several times a day if there are new links and stories posted. Besides adding comments, she'll share stories about UC Merced's accomplishments with her Facebook network, filled with people who aren't too familiar with the university.
"These articles are incredibly important," she said. "They help put the school on the map and grow enrollment."
Across the Atlantic Ocean in Barcelona, UC Merced student José Palma stays on top of what's happening at his alma mater. He participated in commencement in May and is finishing up a few classes abroad, earning his bachelor's degrees in psychology and anthropology .
"I feel obligated to be more connected and be involved in these conversations," he said.
He uses the page to encourage students to study abroad and promote the university. Palma has also answered students' questions about where to eat around Merced or places to go.
Human biology and political science major Beejan Petrosky said the site is the only real direct communication line between students and administration. It gives students a public forum to voice concerns.
"(The Facebook page) is a good idea," he said, "and I like what it stands for."
Still, he's troubled that posts containing expletives are removed because it's a level of censorship he doesn't feel comfortable with. He draws the line at personal attacks.
Petrosky has aimed to keep some discussions humorous with sarcastic replies. He used to check in every day or every other day to see what was being discussed. With a heavy course load, he hasn't had as much time to spend on the page.
Dugan, meanwhile, plans to keep posting and checking in because it's interesting to read what the professors write on the comment page.
"It breaches those (classroom) barriers," she said. "You feel like you can hear their true feelings."