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BHSU students bridge the generation gap with social media

Black Hills State University mass communication students Emily Heath (far left), from Colome; and Robyn Rosechandler, from Cody, Wyo., visit with Dr. Darlene Swartz, BHSU emeritus faculty. BHSU’s mass communication program and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) recently received a grant to conduct an innovative social media project, designed to connect college students with area senior volunteers. The communication between the groups focuses on oral history and planning integrated activities within the community.

During the 2009 spring and fall semesters Black Hills State University mass communication students piloted a social media experiment to bridge the generation gap with volunteers from the BHSU Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

Through success of the experiment, and the assistance of Richard Raridon, volunteer coordinator and the Office of Civil Engagement, the project received a $5,000 grant from the Midwest Consortium to continue the “Students without Boundaries” program.

“Students without Boundaries” will match BHSU RSVP senior citizens with BHSU students to develop intergenerational relationships to promote the positive use of social media to identify and stimulate service learning opportunities in communities. Collaboration efforts will center on issues in the community to national and global issues and their impact. Issues addressed may include the human and health needs of the elderly, students, and the area’s needy and homeless; homeless pets and animals; hunger and poverty; response to natural disasters; and environmental issues.

Identifying issues will be the first stage of social media interaction on, the social media platform. The second stage will identify community-based activities and events dealing with the issues addressed to engage participants of the social media project, and to introduce a larger population of students and community members.

Funds from the grant will allow “Students without Boundaries” to hire a student leader to help coordinate the project and purchase electronic equipment and software needed for the project.

Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser, BHSU assistant professor of mass communication, is directing the incorporation of the social media project. She is excited about the project and is looking forward to a positive outcome that “will contribute to the formation of a new student organization on campus that will realize the benefits of social media that leads to service learning and voluntary activity in the local to global community.”

For additional information regarding the project, contact Caton-Rosser at 642-6422 or email For information regarding the RSVP, contact Nancy Wietgrefe, director of RSVP, at 642-5198 or

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