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Monday June 27th

Hussman student project brings campus back to life, helps students reconnect

A student scrolls through the  ReConnect Carolina Instagram page on Oct. 28, 2020. ReConnect Carolina is a social media project started by a journalism class with the aim to virtually bring together students and alumni.
Buy Photos A student scrolls through the ReConnect Carolina Instagram page on Oct. 28, 2020. ReConnect Carolina is a social media project started by a journalism class with the aim to virtually bring together students and alumni.

UNC seniors in a Hussman School of Journalism and Media class used a school project to bring campus to life once more. 

As students’ lives gradually return to normal, many find themselves still missing everyday experiences that most likely will not return until the distant future. ReConnect Carolina, the students' project, aims to bring together UNC students in these difficult times through reminiscing, and sometimes recreating past memories. 

The initiative is on Instagram, Facebook and on their website. 

ReConnect Carolina, an interactive initiative to reestablish bonds through the community with UNC traditions, was born through professor Gary Kayye's course “New Media Technologies: Their Impact on the Future of Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations.” The course focuses on teaching students real-life skills through a semester-long project. 

At its simplest form, ReConnect Carolina is a virtual scavenger hunt for students to gather points. Each week, a new checklist is released of items that will earn the participants points. With these points, participants may win prizes throughout the event, as well as a grand prize at the end.

The event facilitators have been thoughtful in choosing the items, as they aim to bring business to student-run and local businesses. Team leader Ally Mastroianni said the group felt that in bringing unity to students through the event, they wanted to support the businesses that make UNC so special. 

“We just wanted to stay local, and stay true to Chapel Hill,” Mastroianni said. “A lot of what we're doing is promoting the local businesses and local restaurants. They’re what makes this place so homey.”

Typically, Kayye instructs his students to work on a real-time marketing project for a specific client or group on campus. But with COVID-19 complications, he had to get creative. 

Kayye said the adapted assignment essentially asked students to use a brand to execute a virtual event. The event could be anything as long as it targeted the audience of those in their 20s. 

With two sections of the course this semester, each worked as a team for the assignment, which Kayye created as a competition utilizing a point system. The system is based on a variety of metrics from four social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

ReConnect Carolina, one of the section’s virtual events, is currently in the lead. 

Team member Emily Holler spoke highly of Professor Kayye’s effective teaching methods through Zoom. She said she has looked forward to the course since being a first-year student. She was initially let down to hear it would be virtually instructed but has been pleasantly surprised. 

“I think he's made it sort of as perfect as possible with the situation,” Holler said. 

The campaign is also supporting a local charity along the way. The six-week event costs $10 to register, with some proceeds going to Feed the Fight Chapel Hill, a fundraiser that provides meals to UNC front-line health care workers. 

ReConnect Carolina’s team has worked with a variety of local businesses and individuals to offer prizes and engaging experiences. This week, the team had a giveaway of a gift card for the local restaurant The Purple Bowl. 

Kayye said he hopes to show students that they have the ability to start a successful campaign with few resources, as long as it is calculated and well-planned. 

“The idea is to show them you don't need hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to launch something out of the blue,” Kayye said. “You can do it completely organically for free.”

Both Holler and Mastroianni said they have had a unique experience in Kayye’s course due to the number of genuine connections they have made through the screen.

“To think that we completely plan an entire campaign without ever meeting one another (in person) is kind of crazy,” Mastroianni said. 


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