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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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Chapter 3. Building a Place for Learning


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This chapter offers an overview of the physical elements that must come together to actualize the student-run agency and support its educational mission. Specifically, the chapter addresses physical space, furnishings, technical support, record keeping/file sharing, security, and related concerns that are essential to address for the agency to succeed.

The student-run agency must model, to the greatest extent possible, what a professional agency looks like in the real world. The same is true for any university student-run media operation. A student newspaper that doesn’t employ reporters and editors, lacks a dedicated space in which those people can work, and cannot or will not publicly disseminate a media product – can’t really call itself a student newspaper. It’s playing a game. Real student-run agencies don’t play games.

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