Alumna and Campus Community Profile: Sarah Hamm, MFA '13
Social media undergoes constant change, and change is one thing that Chatham University Social Media Manager Sarah Hamm understands well. When she began as an undergrad at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, she pursued a theatre degree. But Sarah didn’t find theatre fulfilling. “The happiest people I knew were in English,” she says. This change in her life didn’t come from out of the blue, however; Sarah has a long history with writing.
As a kid she always wanted to see herself in stories. “I would sit at my older sister’s word processor,” she says, “and write stories about princesses, tough princesses.” Later on, like many young writers hungry for representation that does them justice, she wrote fan fiction. Then, like a magnetic force, she was drawn to an English degree.
Sarah graduated from Catawba College in 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis. She describes her hometown on coastal North Carolina as “a touristy, rural area with few jobs available.”
She read an article in Poets & Writers that listed Chatham among ‘unusual graduate programs’. Looking into the program, Sarah liked what she saw: a travel- and place-based MFA program, a small size with individual attention, and a feminist social stance.
After completing the MFA program, with an emphasis on travel writing and fiction, Sarah worked as Social Media Strategist for ModCloth, an online women’s clothing retailer. In late 2016 Sarah found her way back to Chatham, this time for work. “I didn’t know I would stay in Pittsburgh, but it just grabbed me,” she says.
Sarah says that her time in Chatham’s creative writing program was instrumental in her digital work. Social media is a space where one’s expression is usually limited to just a couple hundred characters. “Working with Sherrie Flick helped me become a good technical writer,” she says. “I was a good writer before I came here but now I know what I want to say and how to say it efficiently.”
So what does it look like to work with social media as a profession? “I’m sure some people imagine that I’m scrolling through Instagram or taking selfies all day,” she says, “but every post you see takes a lot of thought. I think about presentation, quality, and timeliness.” Sarah writes posts in advance to cover more ground and make effective use of the time she spends on social media. But her work is anything but impersonal. “When you ‘@ChathamU’, you’re talking to me,” she says. “I think feedback is vital in social media and it’s important to know I’m there to talk.” Sarah’s work doesn’t all take place behind the computer or smartphone. She attends meetings, works on events, and manages student employees. There is no doubting her passion for what she does. “I don’t have New Year’s resolutions to keep me energized,” she says, “I get back-to-school energy.”
“I want our social media to showcase the best of Chatham,” she says. “I’ve seen the campus as a student and as a staff member and I know what Chatham has to offer. I want to show our willingness to embrace change and our dedication to inclusivity, sustainability, and hope.”
In a field characterized by change, it’s comforting to know that Sarah is at the helm, adapting where necessary while still holding to her convictions that have stayed constant since tapping out stories on her sister’s word processor.