Last November, as UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi was searching for ways to improve the university’s online image, she dispatched staff to companies in Switzerland, Texas and Maryland to study their digital operations.
The trips cost more than $17,000 in airfare, lodging and other expenses, according to travel records and emails released to The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday in response to a May 5 California Public Records Act request.
The visit to Switzerland by three members of the team came after Katehi visited Nestlé’s Digital Acceleration Lab in June 2015 in Vevey, Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva, records indicate.
“This gave me an idea to create a similar lab at UC Davis, primarily to help us accelerate our understanding and use of social media in communicating internally and externally and in understanding how UC Davis is perceived both in California but in the U.S. and around the world,” Katehi wrote in a Sept. 13 email to an official of the Swiss-based food and beverage giant.
“We have started the process of putting the team together that will create the lab together,” Katehi added. “We will tremendously benefit if we could send two or three of our people for a day’s visit to your lab so they can get an idea of how it is set up and how the training programs are in place.”
The Nestlé Digital Acceleration lab in Switzerland features banks of large “listening” screens that track everything from real-time online conversations and interactions about Nestlé and competitors’ products to recipe tweets, likes and comments on Facebook, according to information posted by the company online.
Nestlé also established an “innovation outpost” in Silicon Valley in 2013 to “deepen its relationships with consumers online and in social media,” according to a press release from the company. Earlier this year, the company expanded that presence, adding marketing and technology employees to a new office at Pier 17 in San Francisco.
The November 2015 overseas trip came as UC Davis was searching for new ways to improve its image worldwide, and after it had spent at least $175,000 on contracts with two firms that promised to help erase negative search engine results about the university stemming from the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students by campus police...