Rudolph pioneers online community

by Erica Clark
Campus Life Editor

“I walked away from the interview thinking this might be exactly what I was looking for,” said Laura Rudolph, Transylvania’s new digital recruitment coordinator.

Rudolph, originally from the small town of Corbin, Ky., accepted the challenge this past summer to build an online community for prospective Transy students — a feat she had just undertaken as a communications coordinator at one of Indiana University’s study abroad offices.

“I had done it once before, so I thought, ‘Surely it’s got to be easier the second time around,’ ” she said.

Transy's digital recruitment coordinator, Laura Rudolph, the voice behind the @beapioneer Twitter account, helped to change the face of student journalism while in college.

With a background in journalism and design, Rudolph already had the required media skills for such an endeavor, along with much experience in starting a project like this one from the ground up.

A graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, Rudolph started her college career with her eyes set on journalism. For her first two years, she attended a community college and worked part time with the Corbin News Journal. With such an understanding of the journalism world, Randolph easily fit into the staff of The Eastern Progress, EKU’s student newspaper, upon transferring.

“I pretty much just jumped right in,” she said.

Although Rudolph was a sports reporter, she felt she was missing out on chances to photograph football games, so she pursued that interest. One fortuitous game gave her a shot she would not forget.

“I happened to be in the end zone because I just felt like there was going to be a touchdown at any minute. And so this guy leaps out into the end zone and I got this leaping picture,” Rudolph said. “It was probably one of the best pictures I’ve taken in my life. … I brought it back to them and they used it for the headlining picture into the sports section, and they were like, ‘Do you want to go to some more football games?’ ”

In the spring, a new staff position was created that covered the police reports from the EKU Police Department. With Rudolph’s background in criminal justice, the staff looked to her for the job.

“My job was to dig deeper into these police reports because there were so many,” said Rudolph. “Because it’s a public institution, you can request police reports, and under federal law, they have to provide that information to you.”

Along the way, Rudolph began to dig into more “heavy” stories.

“The more we requested police reports, the more heavily they had redacted statements in them,” she said. “Before that point in time we would have gotten a police report and they may have redacted the social security number of the student, or things that may be of a personal matter that wouldn’t be necessary to share. That was the beginning of the falling of the dominoes.”

Gaining information from the police to fulfill her role at The Eastern Progress was a constant battle, and Rudolph had to meet with the university attorney several times to voice her complaint about the situation.

However, there was hope for the circumstance, and the end result changed things for student-run newspapers across Kentucky.

“By the end of my senior year, though I was no longer in the position, the editors filed an appeal with the attorney general,” said Rudolph. “The ruling came back, which stated that the department had overstepped its boundaries in redacting personal information from police reports. So it was a big victory for college newspapers regarding open records.”

After Rudolph graduated, her skills in writing, photography and design made her noticeable to Indiana University, where she assumed the role of communications coordinator for the office of overseas study and international affairs.

“I used my graphic design skills,” said Rudolph. “And a lot of things I used in journalism I was able to apply pretty easily.

In order to gain student attention, Rudolph turned to social media, particularly Facebook.

“I had to do a lot of research on social media and social media policies and guidelines and things that you need to have yourself to protect your office,” she said.

Once her husband finished graduate school, the two decided that they wanted to come back to Kentucky. Rudolph came across the position at Transy and went for it.

“I appreciated that they knew that building an online community was something that they needed to do,” she said.

Now, that’s exactly what she’s doing.

“Our marketing theme right now is ‘Be a Pioneer,’ ” she said. “It’s kind of twofold in that we are the Transylvania University Pioneers, but it’s an old term for being innovative.”

Transy now has Twitter, YouTube and Facebook pages all with this theme. They also recently launched a new student blogging website called Write on Broadway.

“I’m really excited to see where this can take us because I think it’s a great recruitment tool,” said Rudolph. “President (R. Owen) Williams has a great vision for the university, and I think that digital media can fit into it really well.”

Despite her new position, Rudolph hasn’t forgotten her original passion for journalism and photography. You might see her taking pictures at many Transy sporting events.

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