Professors join Facebook, keep in touch with students

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October 23, 2007

4:29 AM

Many professors at the College utilize Facebook accounts for a variety of purposes, including keeping in contact with friends and learning students’ names.

p. A sample of the professors and instructors whose names are listed in the 2007 to 2008 Undergraduate Course Catalog were searched on Facebook and 57 profiles were found as a part of the “William & Mary Faculty” network. A 58th professor was located on Facebook because his spouse is a professor at the College, despite the fact that his name is not listed in the course catalog.

p. According to e-mails from two of these professors, they do not have Facebook accounts. A third professor wrote that he recently deactivated his account, and a fourth professor wrote that he believes that a former student created his account.

p. Stacey Pelika, who began teaching in the government department this semester, opened her Facebook account while she was in graduate school. She joined the “William & Mary Faculty” network after she began teaching at the College.

p. “[I] ended up using it to some extent when I was trying to learn my students’ names,” she said. Pelika is teaching two sections of Introduction to American Government and Politics this semester and has 74 students. She has told her students that she is on Facebook, and so far six of them have added her as a friend.

p.“I think it’s just a good way to keep in touch with my own friends … it kind of gives me a different way to know my students,” Pelika said. “At this point, my friends are sort of spread out all over the country … we kind of find it a good way to keep in touch with each other.”

p. Pelika checks her Facebook profile multiple times a day. Her policy is to accept students’ friend requests but not to friend any students. She does not include her political or religious beliefs on her profile.

p. “I think probably a lot of faculty are pretty careful about what they put on their profiles,” she said. “As the College starts hiring faculty who have had profiles as graduate students, you’re going to see more faculty with active profiles.”

p. John Foubert, assistant professor of education and advisor for the College’s One in Four chapter uses his Facebook account in connection with his involvement with the group. He first became aware of Facebook when some of the members of One in Four at the College were using it. He opened his account in 2004.

p. “Once I started to realize that not only were they using it, but students on other campuses were using it, I realized it was a way that, in my role as a national leader of One in Four, I could use it to connect to students in One in Four chapters on other campuses,” Foubert said. “So, my initial reason for using it was to connect college students on multiple campuses in One in Four chapters, to help them to get to know each other through my account.”

p. Foubert teaches graduate-level courses during the academic year and always accepts friend requests from any graduate student. While he does not initiate friend requests to graduate students, he does friend undergraduate students who are accepted into One in Four or whom he knows through his church, as well as students from the institution at which he previously worked. He has 118 Facebook friends at the College.

p. Foubert has used Facebook to raise over $1,000 for the One in Four national organization and he has created several groups related to One in Four. It has also allowed him to post photos and share them with others. He likes being able to publish notes and he created a group called “Dog People” that has over 100 members. Foubert’s scholarly focus is college student development.

p. “For me and what I study, it makes perfect sense for me to have a Facebook account, because Facebook is where students spend so much of their time,” Foubert said.

p. Assistant Professor of Psychology Catherine Forestell had never heard about Facebook before the summer of 2007, and she opened her Facebook account at the end of August. A friend of hers was on Facebook and mentioned it to her.

p. “Enough people had mentioned it to me that I thought, ‘Well, I should check this out and see what it’s about,” she said. “It has connected me with a lot of people that I had forgotten about … not completely forgotten about but people I hadn’t thought about in a long time.”

p. Forestell estimated that she has about 20 Facebook friends, but none of her students have requested to add her as a friend yet.

p. “I probably check it once every couple of days,” Forestell said. “You have to be careful with things like this because it can become an excuse for procrastination.”

p. Forestell, who is from Canada, said that she has many foreign friends who are not on Facebook.

p. “My North American friends are more likely to be on Facebook at this point,” she said. “It’s an interesting social tool.”

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