Describe your nominated project—give us your elevator pitch.
Temple Grandin is a rock star. She’s an autism advocate and animal behavior pioneer. She’s on the Time 100 Most Influential List and her life was featured in an HBO biopic. She’s also a long-time professor at Colorado State University. The public is fascinated with her and her research, but connecting with her on a person-to-person basis is nearly impossible. Our goal: make the impossible possible for hundreds of her fans by trailblazing Reddit as a platform for higher education.
What inspired you most while working on this project?
Dr. Grandin has a brilliant mind. She is a best-selling author, has been placed on the TIME 100 list of most influential people in the world in the “Heroes” category, and is the subject of an award-winning biographical film. We were inspired by the opportunity to connect such a brilliant mind to people around the world through a social platform that opens the doors to rich, personal interactions. Dr. Grandin’s specialty areas are animal behavior and autism -- important topics impacting people all over the world. Knowing that these areas affect people in disparate ways, we were inspired by the chance to provide a deeply enriching conversation that allowed people to get answers to their unique questions directly from a leading expert on these topics. As an institution, we have a vision of showing that we care. We care about our faculty, students, staff, etc. Colorado State University is home to a globally recognized thought leader in Dr. Grandin, and we wanted to share that wealth of knowledge with the rest of the world.
What made your work unique and how did that present obstacles for you to overcome?
Reddit is a new platform for Colorado State and higher education in general. Many universities struggle to find a way to include Reddit in their social media communications and therefore choose not to utilize it. We chose to stretch our boundaries and develop a strategy for using this platform in a way that would elevate our social presence and appropriately serve our mission to listen deeply, share meaningfully, and build community. Dr. Grandin’s areas of expertise tend to generate polarizing debate, and we were concerned about possible questions about controversial topics such as the vaccination-autism link or cattle slaughtering processes. We conducted a content audit for existing Reddit posts pertaining to Dr. Grandin, which gave us a clearer understanding of the existing perceptions of her work from the Reddit community. We provided Dr. Grandin and her doctoral student with an overview of topics that would likely arise during the AMA. Lastly, Dr. Grandin’s comfort level with an unfamiliar platform was an obstacle that we overcame by inviting her doctoral student, Ruth, to help with the process. Dr. Grandin, who has Asperger’s, requested Ruth’s assistance to transcribe responses for the incoming questions. Ruth has been studying under Dr. Grandin for 10 years and is carrying on her animal handling research.
Social media services and platforms that advocate education, learning, and intellectual growth and discovery. Platform agnostic—enter any and all social media that best exemplify your work.