Much like many who utilize Instagram for its influencing abilities, Ariel Walovitch seeks to disseminate a particular message. As opposed to pushing vegetarian meal kits or minimalist hotel rooms overlooking infinity pools, the product and lifestyle Walovitch promotes is Hillel JUC and a connection to Jewish life on campus.
As the organization’s recently hired director of engagement, Walovitch will work with college students to build meaningful connections with digital starts.
“The most effective way to reach students today is through social media,” she said.
Though new to the post, Walovitch is no stranger to the task. Over the past year, she worked with Pitt students on developing a positive social media presence. Walovitch’s efforts resulted in the MazelRazzi’s, a group of seven students who share campus updates, program offerings and musings on Jewish activities in Oakland through scripted videos.
By creating humorous clips, the goal is to influence viewers “on a peer level” and attract people who may never consider associating with Hillel JUC, said Walovitch, whose position at Hillel JUC was preceded by a paid two-year Springboard Fellowship with Hillel International where she focused on innovative strategies for transforming Jewish life on Pitt’s campus.
“Ariel has a tremendous creativity and a commitment to engaging every Jewish student,” said Dan Marcus, Hillel JUC’s executive director. “The way that she uses social media sings to the identities of students on campus, and she has an incredible can-do positive attitude.”
“I’m rooting for Hillel in positive ways,” she agreed.
Walovitch’s drive stems from years of cheerleading. As a member, and eventual squad leader, of the University of Vermont’s cheerleading team, she developed a high regard for teamwork, commitment and a sense of fearlessness before large crowds.
A certain moment in her college career is illustrative, she explained.
During the first round of the 2017 March Madness basketball tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with 20,000 people in attendance and millions more watching at home, Walovitch was set to perform a tuck-basket-toss. The stunt involved a perfect mid-air backflip after a collective hoist from her four teammates. Flipping too soon would have resulted in falling flat on her face, and flipping too late would have been similarly disastrous, she noted.
When the moment arrived, Walovitch’s teammates lifted her up. She perfectly flipped and reached a previously unimaginable height.
That experience serves as a model of what can be accomplished at Hillel JUC, she said.
Because of her background and ability to connect with diverse communities, it was essential to keep Walovitch on board after her fellowship finished this summer, explained Marcus.
“We know that having multiple access points to Jewish students to engage with Judaism while at university means that we have to be constantly thoughtful and creative about the type of staff, the results we build and the communities we offer,” he continued. “That’s why having someone dedicated to thinking about engagement all the time — while this is a part of all of the staff’s job — having someone consistently focused on this is imperative on having us be successful.”
Walovitch, originally of Framingham, Massachusetts, officially begins on July 1, and said she will rely much on past experiences, while continuing to learn from Marcus, the students and fellow staff.
“I want to be someone the students can come to no matter what and encourage them to be their best self,” she said.
In seeking to build these relationships, Walovitch hopes to impart new tactics even though occasional failure may occur.
“It’s about being brave and taking chances,” she said. Regardless of outcome, you have to “keep a smile on your face.”
Walovitch’s personality resonates with students, said Marcus. “Ariel has a unique set of talents and skills” that enable her to consider, develop and implement “the most creative and relevant ways to connect with students on the University of Pittsburgh campus.”
Added Walovitch, “I really see Hillel as a community and I’m blessed to be at my Hillel where I can try new things and think out of the box.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.