by Giuseppe Liquori
I’ve worked at Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center (EMC) beginning as a Marketing Assistant and evolving into a Communications Assistant (a title change I consider to be more fitting, but I digress). Applying for a position here is one of the best decisions I’ve made during my time at Champlain College. I did so completely unsure if I was even qualified for the job. I had only declared myself as a Public Relations Major the prior semester and had only basic marketing skills. But to the EMC, being committed to learning and strengthening your skill set is a part of the job experience. It’s not a class, but it’s a better learning environment than some of the classes I’ve taken.
The EMC hired me just in time to help with the grand opening of the MakerLab. I’ve watched its awareness and usage among students grow since its opening in October 2014. The marketing team hit the ground running to make the MakerLab Grand Opening a success. During the remarks from guests such as President Don Laackman; EMC Director Ann DeMarle; and partners of the EMC and MakerLab, I tweeted out quotes and pictures in real time. This was followed up with a blog post to recap the event.
In the year following, we established a process for regular posting on social media, our blog, and organizing events. I’ve had a role in Art Hop, open houses, and QA sessions. Each time I was able to practice the skills I’ll need once I graduate.
Art Hop was a fantastic experience. A local news station did a segment on the MakerLab, specifically Project Icarus. They were the first to check out our tent behind Arts Riot, but they were not the last. For the next few hours, I had conversations with students, parents, children, yoga instructors, dancers, and every other kind of person who took interest in our showcase. I spent a lot of time demonstrating Graffiniti, which is an interactive art piece made by the EMC’s Sandbox Team. It uses a Kinect to capture a user’s arm movements to create graffiti-like art on the screen. At the peak of the night, I was having conversations with multiple groups in rapid succession while managing whose turn it was to try it out. I imagine it was a similar experience to being a roller coaster operator, though without Final Destination replaying in the back of your head. It’s these kind of experiences I value, looking back and ahead. Public speaking is one of the most commonly held phobias and is something I’ve gotten over from the sheer amount of times and places I’ve done it. While not a typical presentation, the night at Art Hop was an endurance trial of public speaking and having a conversation with an audience – a basic skill of public relations.
Being a part of this small scale marketing and communications team, my writing has definitely improved along with my speaking skills. The same goes for my understanding of Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Look at any number of job postings for PR specialists or a related job, and quite a few of the qualifications will require this kind of versatility. Not every company can afford specialists for every job, or they just don’t take PR as seriously as they should (looking at you, Comcast), requiring a publicist’s skill set to include fields such as graphic design and videography.
These are all skills that my classes have worked on, but the EMC gave me an immediate place to put them into use. I have the creative freedom to experiment with these newfound skills, something that’s harder to do in the structure of a class and its assignments. An added bonus is seeing the work I’ve done get visibility from an audience outside my class.
Entering my senior year at Champlain College, I’ve worked at the EMC continuously since I was hired, even through the summer. During those months, I was given the responsibility of being the Quality Assurance Manager on one of our projects, in addition to having marketing duties. Being the QA manager was a fantastic experience, even with having zero prior knowledge of doing such work. I was tasked with creating a survey for our QA testers based on what the programmers, artist, and designer needed feedback on. As I said before, working at the EMC is a learning experience; even though I don’t see myself working as a Quality Assurance Manager in the future, the skills are skill applicable to evaluating campaigns and strategies in a public relations oriented career. That experience and each semester I’ve spent being a part of the EMC team will be the foundation for me to build my career after graduation. I’d say I did a pretty good job, too; the client certainly was happy with the project at the end of the summer.
I didn’t realize it when I first applied, but 95% of EMC undergrads find a job within one year of graduation – a 5% greater rate than Champlain’s already amazing job placement. After a year and a half being a part of this awesome team, it’s not surprising that we have such great opportunities for success.