Social Media Analytics Strategic Hub (SMASH) Officially Opens at KU

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - Kutztown University's Department of Communication Studies is excited to celebrate the opening of the Social Media Analytics Strategic Hub (SMASH). The new cutting-edge, dynamic space was formally opened at a ribbon cutting ceremony led by KU President Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, KU Provost Dr. Anne Zayaitz, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts Dr. Michelle Kiec, the KU Foundation, faculty, staff and supporters on Tuesday, Sept. 25, in the Rickenbach Learning Center.

SMASH was specifically designed to supplement the new social media theory and strategy (SMS) major at KU, which is one of the first of its kind in the U.S.  Students will be able to minor in social media theory and strategy in the spring of 2019.

"The SMASH plays a critical role in the new SMS major, a unique program that develops real-world and hands-on skills for today's marketplace. At more than 50 students, this new major is quickly growing and exceeding enrollment expectations," Kiec said.

SMASH is an active learning space that incorporates innovative software and unique hardware, and can be used for multiple academic disciplines.

"The SMS degree is a one-of-a-kind undergraduate degree merging coursework in the humanities, business, and data analytics.  It is industry-driven by today's job market, with social media strategy professionals in high demand," said Dr. Keith Massie, SMS Area Coordinator at KU. "The Social Media Analytics Strategic Hub (SMASH) is an interactive learning space employing a host of technologies for the collection and analysis of social media data."

The hardware allows students to work in groups and mirror cast any digital device to a mounted monitor for group discussions. The university is in the final stages of procuring advanced social media software. The software, which was created at Harvard University and employs advanced artificial intelligence to seek patterns not initially obvious to human analysis, gives students access to powerful social media analytics, as it has the capability to keep historical records of social media platforms.

"Close to half the world's population (more than 3 billion people) use social media. Jobs in this burgeoning field are abundant, offer exceptional salaries and often provide the home-based and flex hour opportunities millennials and Gen Zers desire. That's why KU worked to create a full-scale undergraduate degree program in this growing field.

"I'm proud of the expert teams who developed this first-of-its-kind comprehensive experience, and pleased that this degree will position KU graduates to rank among top contenders for some of the most sought after jobs in the country," said Jim Ludlow, vice-chair of the KU Council of Trustees and president of Liquid Interactive, a digital marketing agency in Allentown.  "As the owner of a large digital agency, I have great regard for this skillset and understand the massive industry demand."

Some of the state-of-the-art and emerging technology systems students have access to in SMASH include:

  • Nuvi - proprietary software to study analytics via real-time customizable data visualizations
  • Gephi - visualization software for graphs and networks
  • Twitter Capture and Analysis Software (TCAT)

The TCAT actively mines and archives tweets. To date, only a few U.S. universities have a TCAT, including Yale University, Boston University, The University of Texas at Austin and Saint Joseph's University. The KU TCAT has already archived more than 30 million tweets on 45 different topics.

"I'm taking two courses in SMASH now and I've been impressed with the technology and the nontraditional set-up. The environment is very user friendly and great for group work," said Tony Destin, a junior communication studies major at KU. "Having the social media knowledge taught in SMASH will help students bring value to companies."

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