By Elizabeth Holland
Nestled behind the ancient oaks on North Milledge Ave. is a building where much of the behind-the-scenes action of Georgia government takes place. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) offers the Vinson Institute Fellows Program to undergraduate students at the University of Georgia, and I was selected as a fellow in the fall of 2015. The Institute of Government is home to the Governmental Training, Education and Development Division (GTED) along with several other departments. This division offers training programs to government officials to instruct them about the rules and responsibilities of their offices. Stacy Jones is the associate director for GTED and served as my faculty mentor during my fellowship. With her direction and advice, we combined my interests in communication, law and government service to develop a social media guide for local government officials.
In the United States, 74 percent of adults utilize social media platforms. In addition, many federal agencies, state offices and local governments maintain social media pages. We conducted a survey to identify the legal questions local government officials frequently raise and the questions on which they most desired additional information. Many of their questions concerned whether local government officials can restrict what government employees say on social media or punish them for their posts. They also had questions related to social media and hiring decisions.
I conducted an in-depth case review and interviewed communications professors and local government lawyers to learn more about whether supervisors can restrict public employees’ social media postings or check social media history when hiring. With the help of Ms. Jones, we created a video tutorial that local government officials can use to learn about their rights on social media.
The Institute of Government provided me with an opportunity to combine all of my interests in a way that enabled me to produce work that would have a real, meaningful impact on Georgia government. This opportunity gave me the ability to use skills I learned from my classes in the School of Public and International Affairs and begin to explore the possible career paths I can pursue with my degree.