College of Professional Studies students have a firm grounding in experiential learning through capstone projects with corporate partnerships. Recently, we tried a new twist on the capstone experience.
Students from two master’s programs, Corporate and Organizational Communication and Nonprofit Management, collaborated on a multi-dimensional project for one sponsor — Fashion Revolution.
In December 2018, I began my 21-hour journey from Boston to Singapore to embark on a two-year international assignment. Until this point, my career had been built on corporate communications roles, working at my company’s U.S. headquarters.
In my new role, I would be responsible for building the company’s reputation through digital media in Asia Pacific (APAC), including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
In APAC, I spent a lot of time listening and learning to get a full understanding of the current online activities that were either diluting, damaging or improving the company’s reputation in each country. From there, it was my job to identify how to harmonize digital content creation and optimize social media channels to drive consistency in alignment with global brand principles.
This experience has changed the way I view communications in three ways:
There was a time when we assumed our communication with internal and external audiences could be neatly compartmentalized. It was simple (we thought): One message for employees, another message for external stakeholders. Even in the pre-digital era, of course, that assumption was mistaken.
While we need to tailor our messages to specific audiences, we also have to expect that those messages will be shared. I still recall the reaction when employees at a company I worked for first heard about ‘bad news’ in the Wall Street Journal. We were disappointed and dismayed. Trust in the company’s leadership took at hit.
The emotional dimension of brand
The fact is that an organization’s brand often ‘lives’ in the hearts and minds of its stakeholders, internal and external.
Our Corporate and Organizational Communication program attracts a diverse body of students from around the world, drawn by the opportunity to study in Boston and make connections with a global network of students and alumni. As the lead faculty for our Public Relations concentration, I interviewed a recent alumnus, Pablo Cateriano Llosa. Pablo works in his family-owned PR firm in Lima, Peru.
I was pleased to stand along with colleagues from 42 different cultures presenting their research at this year’s International Association for Intercultural Communication (IAICS) conference. It was my honor to present my research paper, Exploring Organizational Use of Social Media Marketing: A Global Perspective. I appreciate the support from Dr. Carl Zangerl and the Northeastern University Alumni Relations Office project. The data from my study was collected from 17 different cultures.
Surprise! There is more to corporate communications than writing press releases. We showcased this with five Boston-based graduate students, who joined the MilliporeSigma Corporate Communications team for a day. As alumni from the Corporate and Organizational Communication’s program, we know how exciting it can be to apply classroom learning in the real world.
In the last six months, we’ve been doing a lot to embed experiential learning opportunities into our master’s curriculum, from traditional co-ops to international field study courses to experiential capstones.
For me, experiential learning means, quite simply, learning in action. This happens when we apply a skill, a concept, an insight, a new way of looking at things in order to communicate more effectively. This is what we hope to motivate and enable our students (and our alumni!) to do.
An example. Nicole Wild Merle, a recent alumna who is based in Charlotte, applied what she learned in her social media and assessment courses in a co-op project, WomenVotes. You can read about this creative initiative here.
But this was just the first step. Along with many other volunteers and nonprofits, Nicole has harnessed digital media to help people get to the polls. As Brian Rashid writes in Forbes, “Carpool2Vote is the first ever volunteer based app that provides free rides to the polls for people all across America. Even the major ridesharing platforms are not offering such a service. Yes, they offer vouchers and gift certificates, but only one-way, and only to new users. Carpool2Vote, on the other hand, offers free rides to anyone who signs up. No credit redemptions. No stress about whether or not you are a first time user. Free for everyone.”
We’d like to hear your stories of ‘learning in action’ — share your stories by commenting or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. to tell your full story in your own blog post”.