State System universities provide ‘Infinite Opportunities’ for storytelling

julie varnish interviewed for passhe production

Slippery Rock University’s Julie Varnish, assistant director at the Center for Service, Involvement and Leadership, was featured on a recent episode of the State System’s “Infinite Opportunities” program.

June 3, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - With more than 110,000 students and 12,000 faculty and staff across the state, imagine the stories one would hear if the walls of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education's 14 campuses could talk.

The opportunities for intriguing tales seem almost infinite.

Then again, why imagine what you'd hear when you can tune in and not only listen to the stories, but see the people that are sharing them?

Such is the goal of the State System's half-hour, public affairs program, "Infinite Opportunities," which airs at 9:30 a.m., Sundays on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

infinite opportunities map

The program features stories about unique programs, student life and academic offerings at the 14 State System universities. It also includes interviews with university leaders and stakeholders, as well as one-on-one discussions between State System leaders and university presidents.

"The title of the program says it all," said State System Chancellor Frank Brogan. "Our universities do indeed provide infinite opportunities to our students and this program highlights some of those opportunities while giving viewers a closer look at what makes each of the institutions special."

One of those special institutions is of course, Slippery Rock University.

During the 2015 season, the second for the show, SRU was highlighted in five of the program's 13 episodes featuring topics that included: athletics, career education, student success, support services and health and wellness.

As part of the health and wellness episode, SRU's exercise science program was the main feature with Jeff Lynn, associate professor of exercise science, joining Brogan, who serves as the show's host, for an in-depth interview. Related programming from California, East Stroudsburg and West Chester universities rounded out the program.

In its inaugural 2014 season, the program introduced viewers to each of the 14 State System universities and the broad array of academic programs they offer. Season Two delved deeper into the many opportunities Pennsylvania's public universities provide.

"Two years ago, we were hitting the reset button on a lot of the front-facing elements of the State System," said Alicia Brumbach, director of communication and social media for the State System. "We were refreshing the logo, the website ... the brand as a whole, with an intentional focus on each of our universities and how to better share all the wonderful things that students, faculty and staff were doing to make a difference on their campuses, in their communities and in the Commonwealth."

Enter PCN.

The 24-hour television network, available in more than three million Pennsylvania homes, was in the process of creating a unique slate of weekend programming entitled "Sunday Fusion." The weekly, four-hour block would feature a variety of public affairs-centered shows for which the network felt the State System was uniquely qualified.

"The first season was a 'getting to know you' round of shows. We wanted to let people know, 'Where is Mansfield?' 'What is Slippery Rock?' 'What kind of programs do they offer?'' Brumbach said. "It was about establishing a base for the viewer as to who and what our universities are and what they have to offer. 'What do the buildings look like?' or 'What makes them unique from one another?'"

To that end, each episode featured a profile on a single university, including interviews with each institution's president. The second season saw a more in-depth approach to each episode, providing viewers a chance to learn about the programs and services the universities offer.

"After the introductions were out of the way, we want to really look at the topics that were of a value to the System," said Brumbach. "We focused on those things that were areas of distinction for our universities - diversity, international education, internships, student athletes, service, economic impact, student support services - and we used those areas to build thematic episodes that would include pieces and parts from various institutions, but all along that week's common thread."

Not only does "Infinite Opportunities" provide a statewide blanket of exposure for the largest provider of higher education in Pennsylvania, but it also serves other purposes for both the State System and its universities.

After each episode airs, the individual segments are made available for use by each university as well as the State System.

"Through the show, we're able to provide content that is useable for days, months, maybe even years, down the road," said Brumbach. "We never want to just use a segment for the show and call it done. We want each one to be used for all its worth and used in as many different ways as possible."

With that in mind, in addition to the universities being able to feature segments on their websites and social media outlets, State System officials share the pieces with legislatures in each institutions districts as well as showcasing the videos at board of governors gatherings.

It's yet another way the program is providing "opportunities" to expand its reach.

"Each segment, each show, is getting shared via many outlets," said Brumbach. "They each cast a wide net and getting them in front of as many eyes as possible is the key. That's the point in sharing. The show itself is a collaborative effort between the State System and the universities, so it only makes sense that we all get as much benefit from it as possible."

In edition to airing on PCN, each episode is available for viewing at www.passhe.edu/infiniteopportunities the Wednesday after it airs on the statewide public affairs network.

Season Three will begin airing January 2017 on PCN.

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 | robert.king@sru.edu