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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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Many scholars and professionals have served as mentors in the quarter-century that has elapsed since I first walked into a university classroom and stood behind the lectern. In recent years, I was given great responsibility as student-run agencies were entrusted to my care. My thanks are owed to the late George Ramos at Cal Poly and to Bill Briggs of Cal State Fullerton. When it was clear that a book about student-run agencies was needed, my wife Terri encouraged me. My CSUF teaching colleagues also did so. The professionals at Peter Lang Publishing took a chance on my concept, and were supportive throughout. A debt of gratitude is owed to the Agency Spotlight contributors, outstanding teacher/scholars who are engaged where the rubber hits the road. This book would have been incomplete without their stories. I tip my hat to the more than 500 graduates of Cal State Fullerton’s student-run agency. We learned together how to make the agency a well-oiled machine! Finally, I offer humble thanks to my children, grandchildren, and extended family. They take pride in my accomplishments, and smile politely as I endlessly retell the same old agency war stories. Their presence is a daily reminder, as Art Buchwald once noted, “the best things in life aren’t things.”

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