Perlman’s ‘Knowledge’ on display in videos

By Kayah Gausman, NewsNetNebraska

Chancellor Harvey Perlman, the man in charge of a major research institution and a Big Ten University, wants to tell you the secret to success in life.

Right after he takes this call, TiVos Glee, and hits taco night.


Over the last three weeks, and ending on Thursday, a social media phenomenon launched as a part of a new admissions initiative for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Named ‘Perls of Knowledge,’ the website is designed to give the visitor a one-on-one experience with the Chancellor and his nuggets of worldly wisdom.

As a byproduct, a site visitor gets a nice dose of Perlman’s dry sense of humor, too.

“I think it’s probably one of the university’s best kept secrets that the Chancellor is a very funny guy,” Steve Smith, news director for UNL said. “For those who work with him closely, he’s known for having a good sense of humor.”

Prior to the Perls of Knowledge launch, this sense of humor was all but completely lost on students. The university and the Chancellor realized that, in an age where everyone is much more accessible because of social media, regardless of their position in society, being frank and open with a generation of younger adults that appreciates honesty could be an effective engagement tool.

“It’s definitely not traditional, but I think it’s a good approach, that he’s trying to change [recruitment] up a little bit and reach the culture of today’s kids,” Kristi Moser, guidance counselor for Norris High School said. “I commend him for taking this new journey. I don’t know him very well, so I didn’t know he had this side to him. It’s been fun to see.”

An obvious goal of the site is engaging prospective students through the homepage, made noticeable by the variety of links and information available.

“You can look at that page and really get a sense of who the target audience is for that feature,” Smith said.

The layout itself is quite simple. The site looks like a massive bookshelf, and in the center is the most current video featuring Perlman’s sarcasm and wit. On either side of the feature are hidden links and objects to click on, showing even more of the Chancellor sense of humor.

“I think it helps to put a human face on the Chancellor and also shows people that this serious research institution knows they don’t always have to take themselves so seriously,” Smith said.

But what’s the end goal of the website?

Obviously, it targets prospective students, but is there a more definite end goal? No one really knows yet, which serves as a part of the mystery of the site. As of now, it remains a quirky but unexplained collection of Chancellor Perlman’s random musings, and the admissions office is using the buzz of curiosity around campus – and the Internet – to their advantage.

“Perls of Knowledge is part of our larger vision of reaching out beyond our campus borders to tell students everywhere that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers an amazing education in a somewhat unexpected place,” Hunter said. “We’re proud that 25,000 students choose UNL to start, and Harvey is a key personality in that vision.”

Regardless of the end product, the Chancellor and admissions are still having a great time revealing the true personality of the man running a major university.

“You can tell just from watching the videos that he’s having a pretty good time and that he wasn’t conscripted into doing it,” Smith said. “I think some people feel it’s not really something that a serious academic official should be doing, but it’s definitely making people take a second look at the university.”

Below is a compilation of Chancellor Perlman’s Twitter activity. ‘Perls of Knowledge’ isn’t the only Internet activity that’s helped his developing web presence.

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