Student-run Agencies: Proving Ground for Real World Experiences, Future Jobs

    Imagewest Team

I met several PR agency leaders at last week’s PRSSA conference in San Diego.  Unlike traditional Boomer and GenX agency executives, most of these agency heads were under 22.  They represent a growing number of student-run agencies at small and large colleges throughout the country, and other campus agencies are emerging (see next story about Oklahoma’s new agency).   

Ball State University’s student-run agency — Cardinal Communications — was the first to work on a fee basis rather than pro bono, and it has an impressive track record of successful, award-winning programs for nonprofits and companies in the Muncie, Indiana area.  Hill Communications at Syracuse University is another top-notch student agency that has helped a number of nonprofit organizations with PR programs since its founding in 2001.  Agency director Kathleen Hopkins tells me the agency has grown to 45 people this semester. 

Western Kentucky’s Imagewest claims to be the nation’s only full service, revenue generating, student-run advertising and public relations agency.  Like the others, Imagewest provides hands-on agency experiences that help students  develop their skills and enhance their portfolios. Imagewest’s impressive program has been expanded to provide international client experience for several students through its partnership with the International Islamic University Malaysia.  Rowan University’s Ad Dynamics also allows students a chance to tackle “real world” advertising accounts for business and public-service clients. 

College agency experience builds stronger resumes that future job seekers need in the highly competitive “real world.”  Hill’s Kathleen Hopkins understands that point as she explains: “My priority with the firm is to make sure all students, no matter where they are in their PR degree, walk away with several portfolio pieces and real experience that they can talk about on a resume to help them get future internships.”

5 thoughts on “Student-run Agencies: Proving Ground for Real World Experiences, Future Jobs

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I worked at Cardinal Communications at Ball State and it was an unforgettable experience that jump-started my career. The things you learn (good and bad) are the same you experience in real agency life.

  2. Student-run firms really give students a unique opportunity to gain hands on, internship-worthy experience while in school. This allows students to apply what they are learning in the firm to classwork and vice versa.

    I am an account team member at The University of Alabama’s Capstone Agency, and am currently working on an account for our Student Health Center. We do pro bono work, but have recently acquired a large paying account with Alabama Public Libraries, which is really launching our firm.

    I see nothing but good coming from student-run firms and think every student should take part in something like this! You really can’t beat the experience that you gain as an account executive before you have even graduated.

  3. Elon University’s Live Oak Communications, a full-service, student-run agency provides services to non-profits in Alamance County, Durham County and more. Experiential education is a big part of the Elon experience, and as a career counselor, I see my students skills and confidence grow as they work with real clients in professional environments.

  4. I am a former agency executive and current professor in our new School of Communication investigating the feasibility of initiating a student agency here at Radford University. Any comments or relevant information from administrators, faculty and especially students(and alumni) regarding the student agency experience would be greatly appreciated.

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