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Real World Career Preparation

A Guide to Creating a University Student-Run Communications Agency

Douglas J. Swanson

University student-run communications agencies allow students to work with real clients and get real world experience before they graduate from college and enter the workforce. Student-run agencies are increasing in popularity, but building a successful agency is challenging.

With more than ten years of experience supervising a student-run agency, Swanson examines the three critical roles a student agency must fulfill in order to be successful. First, the agency must be an exceptional environment for learning. Second, it must be a successful business—without satisfied clients, the agency will not survive. Third, it must be a supportive partner in both on- and off-campus communities.

As the first book to address student-run agencies, Real World Career Preparation offers extensive ‘how to’ guidance, and is supported by 22 Agency Spotlight best practice examples from student-run agencies across the U.S. The book ends with a comprehensive directory of 158 university student-run agencies in operation all over the world.

Real World Career Preparation is essential reading for any faculty member or administrator who is involved with an agency, or who plans to launch one in the future. This book is also valuable for college students working in an agency who seek ‘the big picture’ view of how their work for clients has long-lasting impact on the campus and the community.

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Agency Spotlight Contributors


Sheri Broyles is a Professor in the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. Like many creatives, she has an eclectic background with a Bachelor of Music and M.A. in Journalism. Sheri combined her love of music and writing working in advertising and PR for a symphony orchestra. She then honed her copywriting skills at a Dallas advertising agency. Sheri earned a Ph.D. in Psychology; her research interests focus on creativity and gender. Sheri teaches the Principles of Advertising/PR and copywriting classes and previously taught planning and campaigns. Her vision resulted in the agency known as SWOOP.

Debbie Davis (ABC, APR) earned her Ed.D and M.A. at Ball State University, and her B.A. in Journalism at Franklin College. An award-winning communications professional and former TV news producer, Debbie leads the undergraduate and graduate programs and serves as the faculty adviser for Cardinal Communications. She transitioned into higher education after working for three hospital systems, Eli Lilly & Company, and WellPoint, Inc. Her expertise in crisis communications and media relations has supported major product launches in the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry, garnered media coverage that favorably shaped public perception and policy in the insurance industry, and guided organizations through high-stakes strategic changes and business crises. ← 287 | 288 →

Dan Eller holds an Ed.D from the University of California, Santa Barbara and is an Assistant Professor of Public Relations in the Journalism Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Dr. Eller has...

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