Help build scholarships by connecting with UW or WAA via Facebook or Twitter

Here’s a challenge that’s easy to undertake: connect with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Alumni Association, or both, on Twitter and Facebook and help students.

For each new Facebook friend or Twitter follower connecting with the UW-Madison, WAA or both on those social networks through Monday, Oct. 3, Will and Jenny Hsu of Minneapolis and Will’s parents, Paul and Sharon Hsu of Wausau, Wis., will give $1 to the Great People Scholarship, up to $50,000.

The goals of the Bucky Challenge are simple: Increase the number of social media followers of the university and WAA while supporting students through Great People.

“We’re trying to make sure people stay connected,” says Will Hsu, who  majored in finance, Chinese languages and literature, and East Asian Studies at UW-Madison and graduated in 2000. He is a senior finance manager at General Mills in Minneapolis and a frequent blogger who makes good use of Twitter.

“The growth of social media has really changed the world,” he says. “In the last few years, Jenny and I have watched Facebook and Twitter and some of these other types of social media take off. I think it’s a powerful way for younger alums and current students to get connected and stay connected with the university.”

The Great People Scholarship Campaign, which has generated more than $25 million so far for student aid, is the highest philanthropic priority on campus. The scholarships are part of aid packages put together by the Office of Student Financial Aid, and the packages often include student and family contributions, loans and work-study employment. About 500 students received these scholarships this fall, and that number will rise significantly in future years as gifts increase and endowment funds are made available.

Social media use at UW-Madison has grown exponentially in the past two years, with more than 750,000 followers to roughly 500 campus accounts on all platforms. Schools, colleges and campus units are increasingly using platforms like Facebook and Twitter to tell the university’s story, but more importantly, directly engage with students and alumni, holding conversations, answering their questions and reposting their content.

Although contests are fairly common, the link between a donor, scholarship funds and social media may be the first of its kind in higher education.

“We’re constantly searching for new and innovative ways to communicate with our campus community,” says Vince Sweeney, vice chancellor for university relations. “The Bucky Challenge is unique because it pairs a vital institutional goal with the perfect reason to engage with audiences who may not have had a lot of contact with the institution. Not only are we supporting students, but we’re expanding the university’s potential audience for the future.”

In its 150 years of existence, WAA has continually found ways to connect alumni with each other and the UW-Madison.

“Our alumni are really embracing social media as a way to engage with their alma mater and their alumni association in a brand new way,” says Paula Bonner, president and alumni association CEO. “I enjoy keeping up with the conversations Badgers are having with us and with each other on Twitter and Facebook. Seeing photos of football fans, hearing stories from all the decades, knowing that Badgers are making personal and career contacts — it’s just a great way to connect.”

Will Hsu keeps track of UW-Madison social media channels to stay current on the big issues on campus.

“Our challenge could motivate people to get more involved with the university,” he says. “I think it’s a great communication vehicle for the university to engage in dialog with alumni, friends and donors.”