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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 6. Expanding Learning Opportunities with Graduate Teaching Assistants


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Graduate students, when available to the student-run agency, can be a tremendous source of support for the supervisor/instructor. Graduate students can also be a trusted source of guidance and counsel for undergraduate students working in the agency. This chapter briefly presents the distinctions between graduate and undergraduate students in academe. It discusses the desired qualities sought in graduate students, and describes ways to successfully employ graduate students for teaching and research support in the agency, working one-on-one and collectively with undergraduates and client teams.

This chapter proceeds from the standpoint that the student-run agency, whether volunteer-based or curriculum-centered, has a staff comprised of undergraduate students. This would be the norm for most agencies, since the ultimate goal of the agency is to prepare university students for the entry-level workplace. Some student agencies may include graduate students among their staff. In such a situation, most of the best practices recommendations that follow in this chapter would still be relevant.

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