Even the most bookish academician would have to agree that shared, real-world experiences can represent some of the most powerful ways to learn and connect with society. In the setting of an exciting group event, learning can take on unimagined dimensions. Envision a class in American Literature given by John Steinbeck, or being taught advanced physics by Galileo or musical composition by Leonard Bernstein. In the spirit of these literary greats, Barnes & Noble College will unite students with “modern masters,” hosting dream class events this fall through a new partnership with Togather, a powerful social platform that engages student groups and campus departments, and connects them with a wide range of authors and subject matter experts.
Rather than locate a random sample of speakers to embark on a campus tour, Togather enables a much more creative and highly-tailored approach. “What makes these events so successful is that they’re created around the subjects that really excite and resonate with the specific group we want to reach,” explains Togather’s CEO, Andrew Kessler.
The idea was tested at 70 college bookstores nationwide, in a campaign asking students to nominate the kind of dream class they’d most like to bring to their campus. Students were encouraged to log on to the Togather website and nominate their favorite class suggestions via Facebook, and the students own interests and ‘likes’ from their Facebook profiles generated some additional suggestions. Some of those results were imaginative, as Tamara Vostok, Barnes & Noble College’s Consumer & New Media Marketing Manager, explains. “We had some really fun, creative responses ranging from Late Night Food Alternatives to No-bake Munchies and Dorm Entrepreneurship – and these were all class subjects that we could potentially turn into author events,” she adds.
As a result, Barnes & Noble College is launching 26 events nationwide in partnership with Togather, crafted around the most-voted courses on campus. Pairing students with authors, who are also thought leaders and want to talk about their work, is an especially attractive draw, and with events specifically designed around the student’s own interests, it’s not surprising that many have already sold out. “This is so much more than the traditional book-signing event,” Kessler points out. “Our experts can deliver great event experiences for an enthusiastic crowd who are really excited to hear their message,” he adds. Admission to the class for the first 20 RSVP’s is free, with a general admission of $5 dollars, which will be donated 100 percent to Barnes & Noble College cause-marketing partner, Habitat for Humanity.
Despite their distinctive preoccupation with texting and interacting digitally, another characteristic of the student Millennial population is the craving for authentic interactions and the opportunity to build more meaningful relationships. Events such as the Togather author classes are designed to cater to exactly that need by bringing readers closer to authors and their subjects in a shared experience. “We’re continually looking at ways to ensure the campus community remains relevant and grounded in events and meaningful experiences for our students,” explains Vostok. “That’s why it’s important that we position the bookstore as a cultural and social hub, and with the kind of face-to-face interaction these events provide, it never gets better than that.”