A cross-campus collaboration between the Department of Communication and WittPath Career Services has resulted in an innovative approach to experiential learning, leading students from the classroom to the boardroom.
Called the Communication Leaders experience, the highly competitive program offers a year-long educational opportunity for 8-12 students, which involves field trips to various organizations and visits from business leaders. The program focuses on leadership qualities and styles as the students explore career opportunities in communication fields.
Spearheaded by Associate Professor of Communication Matthew J. Smith and Director of WittPath Career Services Karen Reynolds, the program is different from any other class offered within the communication department in that it gives students opportunities to learn about real-world organizations, from Fortune 500 companies to small non-profit agencies.
A trip to Columbus has become an annual part of the program’s curriculum. In 2008, the group visited Limited Brands and OhioHealth Foundation, thanks to the efforts of Tia Carter ’08 and Amy Holden ’07, both former program participants. Carter hosted the group at Limited Brands, while Holden created a learning experience for them at OhioHealth Foundation. In addition, the students visited FahlgrenMortine, one of the top public relations and advertising firms in the Midwest where another alumnus Steve Drongowski ’74 serves as president and CEO.
The Communication Leaders also participated in two challenging hands-on projects – one for Internet search engine Google, and the other for Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Divided into two groups, the students tackled actual communication-related issues that the two companies have faced. Tasked with providing solutions and recommendations, the students made presentations to senior leaders at both companies during what has become an annual trip to Chicago in April.
Business professionals from a variety of backgrounds have paid the Communication Leaders visits on campus as well. President and CEO of Sweet Manufacturing Alicia Sweet Hupp ’82 visited during the 2008-09 school year as did Scott McCune ’72, vice president and director of integrated marketing for Coca-Cola. They are among numerous guest speakers who have given their time to discuss workplace experiences and offer professional advice to the program participants.
Funding for the program also has an alumni connection. Margo Thomas Steinbaugh ’74 helped to make the program possible with her generous support.
“I believe in the value of experiential learning,” she said, “and I want to see the opportunities expanded.”