Issue: Spring/Summer 2013

Communication Into Connectivity

Amy (Danna '93) Tetta

At the beginning of my freshman year in 1989, many of my classmates were arriving on campus with typewriters – the more “cutting-edge” students using word processing machines. For those with neither, the opening of the computer lab was a great opportunity. Cell phones were not in use at this time; the more progressive students in what was then called East Hall (now Gillette Hall) paid for personal phone service in their rooms. The rest of us waited, sometimes in line, for the hall phone to be available. Mindful of expensive long-distance fees, students regularly timed their calls to home in the evenings or on weekends to save a few cents per minute. If you wanted to connect with friends to go to Big Al’s, you could try calling their hall phone and hope someone would answer, but you might be more likely to walk around campus to find the action.

Fast forward to April 2013. As an employee at Houghton, I walk through the Campus Center and see that almost every student is on a device of some kind: texting (as they walk), working on a laptop or checking Facebook on an iPad. When they want to get in touch with a friend, they text or call, expecting an immediate response. When they want to know what’s going on, they tap into social media.

Innovations in communication have advanced at warp speed in just a few decades, making the stuff of sci-fi movies reality. At the forefront of this communication explosion has been social media, allowing us to share our lives, as openly as we choose, with our family and friends across time zones and oceans. Social media has also moved us beyond simple communication into connectivity. While the Internet built the foundation of the web, social media has connected individuals and given them a voice and a platform from which to speak.

Noel Habashy ’03 has embraced the inspirational potential of social media, in the true liberal arts tradition, weaving it into a self-challenge of life-long learning. “One day,” recalls Noel, “I was helping a friend clean his kitchen. He had made yogurt and I thought, ‘you know, it would be fun to try to make yogurt some time.’ That grew to, ‘you know, I’d like to try a bunch of new things.’ I had just turned 30 and thought this would be a great way to continue to challenge myself, learn, keep myself mentally and personally sharp.”

Noel started a blog,, where he began to chronicle his journey; he also linked it to Facebook so friends could follow along.

“I’ve found myself energized to try things that I had never done before. I had more confidence to try new recipes, stretch myself physically, and go new places,” explains Noel. And in the process, he has inspired those within his social media network.

Social media has brought connectivity to the business world, as well. Shane Fraser ’11 helps small businesses maximize their social media impact and connect with their clientele. His company, Social Networking Assistance (, grew out of an internship experience as a student at Houghton College.

“My first professional social networking experience was an internship at a sports shop in Olean,” explains Shane. “Throughout the internship I was able to see social networking really impact this particular small business. Customers were interacting, business was speeding up, and the owners felt that they were able to communicate in real-time with all of their followers.”

After the internship concluded, Shane worked to deepen his understanding of how social media can impact businesses. Professor Ken Bates also helped Shane craft a business model that eventually birthed Social Networking Assistance.

“In the early stages of my business, I had the opportunity to work with a public school and help them reach more people within the community. When I joined the picture, they had no presence and by the end of my time helping them, they had quite a following.” Shane explains that helping the school connect to students and parents via social media tied the community together in a new way. “Not only were we able to make people aware of the school’s calendar events, but we were also able to post updates from sporting events, share news regarding cancellations/delays, and even help make community members and parents aware of a bomb threat! It was rewarding
and intriguing to see the impact social media had on this small town,” says Shane.

Amy (Danna '93) Tetta is the face behind social media at Houghton, working to connect the college to individuals through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Communication is about connecting. Effective communication builds bridges that connect people with each other, with ideas and with a broader view of the world. While social media is a new, quicker way to connect, it’s the people and their ideas that make it exciting, useful and ever changing. What will the future of communication look like? Perhaps we should consult this summer’s blockbuster sci-fi films to find out.


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