Students consul

By Katie Conway

Some students taking a special communications class are jumping at a unique opportunity to apply what they learned in the classroom to “real world” experience.

The students of Keith Hearit’s Communications Studies 470: Campaign Strategies and Development class set up a not-for-profit student-run consulting agency.

In order to run the program, Hearit goes into the community to search for potential clients. The clients for this year’s agency, Verde Consulting Agency, include the Volunteer Action Center (VAC), Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization, the Family Service Agency and Hope Haven Homeless Shelter.

In the class, the students write up a proposal and present it to the client. Next, they write up a non-binding contract listing the expectations of both the client and the agency.

Their next focus is the campaign itself. Once the campaign is completed, the students write up a final report analyzing what they’ve done, what has been successful and what is yet unfinished.

“The purpose of the program is to not only give students practical real world experience but to cultivate a service to the community into which they’ll be employed,” Hearit said.

The clients give the agency a budget of between $300 and $500 to work with. Hearit said he tries to challenge the students to work under the budget. “Since they’re students, they can usually convince businesses to donate free materials for the good of the community,” he said.

The agency offers many services to its clientele. The group working on the Big Brothers/Big Sisters account is producing a video to show at the local elementary schools and to the PTA.

Another group is organizing a Volunteer Recognition Program which recognizes outstanding volunteers in the community by giving them certificates or, in some cases, asking area restaurants to donate a free dinner.

The other groups organize membership drives and fundraising mailings, orchestrate special events and send out newsletters. They also write and rewrite brochures.

In each group there is an executive director, an assistant executive director, a research and marketing director, a media relations director and a finance director. The rest of the group is divided into committees under these directors.

The class also includes two communication coordinating managers (CCM) responsible for producing a weekly newsletter to make sure the class knows the progress of the groups. They also serve as liaisons between the agency and the client in case of any problems.

CCM Monique Aarons, a senior corporate communications and marketing major, said, “This class will help me prepare for real life experience. It’s almost like an internship within the classroom.”

She also pointed out the class is a requirement for a major in corporate communications. She said she chose Hearit because he is the only instructor who set up a real working atmosphere. The rest of the classes only do simulations.

“The main thing is to take learning out of the classroom and into the working world,” Hearit said.