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Communications professors study the benefits of student agency experience

Associate Professors Lee Bush and Dan Haygood and Lecturer Hal Vincent examined the long-term impact of student-run agency experience on graduates’ careers.

Associate Professors Lee Bush and Dan Haygood and Lecturer Hal Vincent published a research paper on Oct. 4 in the OnlineFirst edition of Journalism & Mass Communication Educator (JCME). The article, titled “Student-Run Communications Agencies: Providing Students with Real-World Experiences that Impact Their Careers,” will later be published in the print edition of JCME.

Pictured (from left) are Associate Professors Lee Bush and Dan Haygood and Lecturer Hal Vincent.

For the study, the authors interviewed 14 graduates from seven universities across the United States about their work at student agencies, the benefits they received from that work, and ways in which the experience helped them in their careers.

Graduates said the top benefit of student agency experience is the hands-on knowledge gained from working on authentic, real-world client accounts in an agency setting. Graduates also reported the agency taught them “soft skills,” such as working with a diversity of people in team-based settings, and cited these skills as critical to their current careers. In addition, graduates said their student agency experience set them apart in the job market, helped them land their first jobs after college, and made them better communicators as their careers progressed.

When asked what was missing from their agency experiences, graduates most often cited the “business side” of communications, such as learning about cost structures and billing processes. The authors recommended these and other skills mentioned by graduates should be added to student agency structures.

Commenting on the study, Bush said, “In combination with other studies I’ve conducted on student agencies, this research shows that student agencies are not only beneficial to students while at a university, but that these benefits extend long into graduates’ careers. The study will help existing student agencies make improvements to their practices, and presents a strong case for the value of adding a student agency to a communications curriculum.”

The authors presented an earlier version of their article in August at the 2016 annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

Bush is the founder of Elon’s student-run communications agency, Live Oak Communications, and Vincent is the agency’s current faculty director.

JCME is a peer-reviewed, quarterly journal that addresses the professional needs of the journalism and mass communication educator and administrator on both secondary and collegiate levels.


Tommy Kopetskie,
10/10/2016 9:20 AM