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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 4. Engaging Students for Learning


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The student-run agency is a learning laboratory. At the same time, it is a business that develops professional-quality communication services and products. Many built-in tensions are present, because the agency is simultaneously moving in what can appear to be two different directions. Student staffing of the agency is always in transition, as new students arrive and experienced students depart. This chapter offers guidelines for engaging students in the agency to support the business operation while giving students the opportunity to learn and develop their skills. Sometimes, that means allowing students to make mistakes so they’ll learn. The chapter includes recommendations for engaging students mindfully to – hopefully – reduce errors and make their work a more contemplative encounter.

Educational Engagement and Collaboration

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