Brescia reaching out by logging on

Some 10,000 km away, Brescia University College is gaining esteem among young women in China, all thanks a tech-savvy outreach initiative.

Rongjing Ma, a fourth-year student at Brescia, has teamed up with Dan Bashaw, web developer at Canada’s only women’s university, to reach out and recruit potential students from the world’s most populous country.

While popular social media sites are banned in China, its latest social networking site, Sina Weibo, best described as a blend of Facebook and Twitter, has garnered 400 million users, making it an ideal forum to share the Brescia experience with potential students.

“When I was in China, I could only search second-hand information (about Brescia) online. This is a good idea to share our videos and campus lives with students who live in China – more and more students communicate and interact with us,” Ma said.

Ma came to London for Brescia’s Bachelor of Management and Organizational Studies program. Today, she is giving other prospective students a first-hand account of what it’s like to study here.

With Bashaw’s supervision, Ma created a Brescia Weibo page, one you could compare to any one of Western’s Facebook pages, allowing users to subscribe to posts, leave comments and connect with other users, both in Canada and in China. She uses the page to share the full Brescia experience with young women in China, posting information about the school, its campus and programs, pictures, videos and even activities she participates in on campus.

“We want to encourage Chinese students to be more involved in the kinds of activities here (when they come),” said Ma, who plays the guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument, and who recently performed at a coffeehouse-type event on campus. “I posted (about) that on Weibo. I told upcoming students ‘You should prepare if you have gifts or talent, because you will have lots of opportunities to share them at Brescia.’”

Bashaw added Ma translates content and tailors it to a Chinese audience in order to promote the school and what it has to offer.

“It is good for outreach for prospective students, but it seems to me it’s also important in some ways for keeping current Chinese students connected and engaged in the broader Brescia community. A lot of the comments you get will come from current students,” he noted.

“It’s neat to see things spin off, and I think we will develop much tighter ties to our Chinese alumni over time through social media as well, and build from it. We try to treat Brescia as a whole-life experience and keep those connections going.”

Ma agreed the site is fostering a community of Chinese students already at Brescia, allowing them to interact with one another and feel connected to home at the same time. She said using Weibo is a great way to reach out to potential students, while nurturing a community of current students and later on, alumnae.

“(Weibo) makes the community smaller for them,” Ma noted.

And she is looking to expand on the work she does with Bashaw at Brescia.

Ma, who will graduate this year, is hoping to partner with local businesses wishing to expand in and advertise to the Chinese market.

Most businesses and organizations here have a Facebook or Twitter account that promotes their companies, she said, noting they could use something like a Weibo page to expand in China. She hopes that after graduation, she will be able to connect with businesses and offer them the same promotional service she has been working on at Brescia.