This past semester, the Division of University Relations challenged its interns — from assistant professor Mayoor Mohan’s marketing internship class — with gaining more followers for Virginia Commonwealth University's Instagram account.
In response, the six students developed RamTales, a four-story Instagram miniseries. The gaol was to generate buzz about the resources, stories and personality that distinguishes VCU from its peers, said intern Owen Puller.
“It was really meant to be a project that VCU [students] created for other students to show the most real side of what we are and not for them to think that it was any sort of propaganda put on by the actual university,” he said. “And it gives our students a way to say, ‘Our school is pretty great, look at what we can do here.’”
The intern team recruited five students from different disciplines to tell their VCU stories in the RamTales series. Featured stories included a student who found her passion in exercise science after first majoring in biomedical engineering, and a pair of marketing majors who, after meeting in class, started working creatively together on film and music projects.
“I was expecting more of a 9-to-5 shadowing internship, but it wasn't like that at all,” intern Rose Eileen said. “Most of our internship was independent work, and we were relatively unsupervised other than weekly meetings with the whole University Relations team.”
Each intern had their own manager/mentor depending on their specific project task. Puller took on social media for the project while Alexander Souvannavong worked on the creative side. Hunter Mott tackled management while Rosie Reighley and Alessa Bazzi worked on strategic management.
“I decided to focus more on the strategy side, as well as taking the lead on video editing,” Harvey said. “I wanted to stick with management because it's something I have a lot of experience with and am really comfortable with, but I [also] wanted to try something new at the same time, so I tried my hand at editing.”
The students learned several new skills over the course of the semester.
“Our biggest problems were probably just lack of proficiency with any of the tools that we were using,” Puller said. “You know, as marketing students, you don't really get taught video production, sound production, storyboarding. I've never written a creative brief until now.”
Mohan said that “the interns gained an extremely valuable experience through the internship and learned quite a lot of what it takes to handle social media marketing for a client as big as VCU. Importantly, the students recognize this too.
“Their work resulted in over 1,400 new followers for the university's Instagram account” in just a few short weeks. Courses like Mohan's class are part of the School of Business' focus on increasing experiential learning opportunities for students as part of the EPIC Strategic Plan.