CLAS Acts June 2019

Monthly newsletter of TT faculty of the college



Frederick J. Antczak


I once thought that there were no second acts in American lives…

~F. Scott Fitzgerald ("My Lost City", 1932)

As you know, when I announced that I would step back from being dean around June 30, 2020, I expressed my desire to finish my career doing the things that have always been its raisons d'être.  It’s my sincere hope that you are actively seeking to make this moment of your career what you want it to be, too.  We are lucky to do what we do, so let’s do it full on.

I see faculty making these sorts of choices—someone decides to re-energize their research after a long stint of heavy service or a full professor decides to embrace a new pedagogy or a person steps up into a leadership role.  Of course these can involve some risks—manageable risks, as we discover—and may mean seeking a new kind of grant or negotiating a collaboration with colleagues.  Sure, there is usually a little disruption involved, but it often proves to be a kind that can break up the rust that might have accreted when you weren’t looking. I know I’ll be telling myself all this in a year, but the image of a dean about to break up the rust around his gingerly moving parts may be too comic even for one of my Dean’s Desk messages.

But it’s worth observing that often, such moves tend to open up movement by others too.  Perhaps it is that they serve as inspiration, or even that we vacate a spot that someone else will take and fill in a different way, with a partly new array of benefits.  Ultimately, our calling at the University isn’t just a matter of playing out a zero sum game; you can be the architect of your future to an extent that other professions envy—or, simply can’t imagine. You can start today.

I can’t get over all the new light of these longer days—maybe they’re not a bad time to contemplate doing new things.  I hope June is a month that affords you an extra hour in the sun (with SPF 50, of course) to think about your goals, and your work life, and your dedication to our students, and the shaping I know you will make of things to come.

Keeping it Real with Tim Penning—Internships, Experiential Learning, and Student Organizations

In the tradition of the William James College that was the partial precursor to the School of Communications, the faculty in Advertising and Public Relations often have a career trajectory that blends practical application in their field as well as theoretical academic study.  It is no wonder that their commitment to internships, professional organizations and experiential learning for real clients is very high.

Professor Tim Penning took some time out of finals week to talk about their program.

“Our annual report just came out and in it we list all the employers who had interns,” Tim begins. “Some of our students really get to be part of the team at these employers and internships are an important part of the curriculum on Ad/PR.”

He describes how he worked with Troy Farley and Rachel Becklin of Career Services on what is now an online internship management system.  “That made it easier, and key was moving it online to facilitate internships across the country and overseas without needing to be present.”

His goal now is to make site visits in an optimal way.  There are so many that getting the rotation right and visiting the major sites over the course of the year makes sense.  “We want to be clear with the employers about what an intern should do and ensure that there is a real job description.  When they post these descriptions, students can go after internships that really advance their plans.”

Students have two 300 level courses as prerequisite to going on an internship so they have appropriate skills.  Once they have those courses under their belts, they complete an agreement online. This application asks about the courses they’ve taken in the major, their credits, the job description they are seeking and when they will be available.  The faculty supervisor asks the employer to confirm agreement and then the faculty member issues the permit.  This due diligence helps to avoid dangerous situations such as postings on Craig’s List that haven’t been vetted or misunderstandings between the parties that could lead to less than instructive internship experiences.

“We hold an Internship Info Session before class registration begins in March.  We also post a lot of information online.  We also mention internships in our classes.”

Tim notes that while he facilitated internships for many years, that more recently his colleague Peggy Howard has been the Internship Coordinator, and that Adrienne Wallace will be taking on that mantle soon as Peggy will retire in August.

Tim points out that student and employer surveys and a student essay provide qualitative and Likert scale data which becomes assessment data.

In the top 50 placements, it is not uncommon for students to have as one of their assignments to help recruit their replacement.  Not only are they engaging in experiential learning, there is also a community engagement aspect to this experience that all majors undertake since they must accomplish at least 3 credits of internship as part of their degree.

“These days, many agencies want to see more than one internship on a student’s resume.  Some of our students do an observational internship [not for credit] first and then go for a big one in an area of particular interest to them.  We are seeing now that big agencies don’t provide an internship unless they have a real job opening.  The internship is a vital part of their hiring process,” Tim explains.

Students have also worked on community projects that range from Nestle to small non-profits to the Michigan Department of Transportation, so by graduation they have portfolios of real clients and can hit the ground running using industry-specific software and with knowledge of industry standards and practices.

“I keep thinking about making sure the theory is in there, too, so that the students understand the strategy behind their work,” Tim says.  “We’re fortunate that our students are involved in organizations affiliate with national associations and industry groups, for instance, PRSSA [Public Relations Student Society of America], American Advertising Federation (AAF), and the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America.  Our best students take advantage of these opportunities, and we now have lots of alumni in the profession that we can tap.”

All this experience leads to award winning work. “We engage students significantly through national competitions at which we've been successful—the National Student Advertising Competition and the Arthur W. Page Society PR Case Study competition in which GV Ad/PR students placed very high against bigger schools and even graduate students,” Tim recalls with well-earned pride.

Professional organizations, internships, and experiential learning with real clients on and off campus are the three legs of the stool that prepare Ad/PR students to succeed.