By Dr. Chloé Diepenbrock

When Susie was first realized and took material form, we were very protective of her. She took walks around campus to meet people, but never without a chaperone. We placed her into the elevator for fun rides up and down in the classroom buildings, but the chaperone stayed quietly in the corner to make sure no one absconded with her. She set up some brochures at a table in the cafeteria and stood ready to greet people, but her chaperone sat unobtrusively several tables away—like a Secret Service agent—to make sure no one caused her grief.

As Susie began to interact with our community in both her material form and her virtual one, we realized that security issues could be more complex. People flirted with her, which was fine when we were sitting in front of her material presence, but people flirted with her in chat sessions as well. We realized that we needed some good instructions for tutors to follow if they found themselves in such a situation while chatting as Susie. This motivated the creation of a sample inappropriate chat with advice on how to gracefully—and wittily—decline such offers. You can find this sample chat in our Guide to Creating a Virtual Tutor.

Another security issue that we needed to address was how accessible graphics can be when placed on a website or Facebook page. It’s easier to abscond with a virtual image than it is a physical one, so we decided to watermark the images we placed on the website to ensure that if someone did copy them, our university name would be prominent—reminding everyone where Susie really lives.

Finally, a security issue came up several years into the Susie project when our university communications office began setting policies on Facebook interactions. We initially set up a profile that allowed people to friend Susie. This allowed Susie’s friends to chat and leave messages, but our university asked us to convert Susie's facebook page to a fan page. This type of page limits the types of interactions that Susie can have with her followers, but the university felt it was less of a liability.

Switching to a fan page means that we need to work at visibility by posting frequently. This ensures that Susie's comments will appear on her fans' news feeds. We also make sure to cross-post Susie's comments on the Writing Center's Facebook page, which sends readers back to Susie's page. We have also added a webpage for Susie's freshman brother Sammy. Sammy has a blog that Susie responds to, and this gives her another way to exchange interactions that her fans (and his) can read. Sammy's blog can be found at

Chat with Susie Susie's Facebook PageEmail the Writing CenterReferencesA Virtual Tutor Implementation Guide