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Summer Internship Series: Abhilasha Shah

Networking Really is Key

Abhilasha pic 2People always say that in this world, the people you meet are crucial to making your career path. They say that these people could lead you to opportunities, open doors that you could not open so easily on your own. Because of the people that they know and the friends that they have, in essence, your dream could be a simple phone call or email away.

While this is all very true, I feel there is more to gain from networking. During my internship this summer at Mediavest in New York City, I witnessed many interns putting themselves out there and making sure they are known to those in leadership positions, while not reaching out as much to colleagues lower on the command chain. These interns strive to make any sort of conversation, find any tiny connection in order to relate more to the individual and be remembered. All of these efforts are for the mere chance to connect on LinkedIn.

What is often ignored is the insight ANY person in a given company can provide. Whether they have a bigger title or smaller role, everyone has a history of how they ended up there. This summer, I was lucky enough to meet many individuals who had such unique career histories. Even though I may not have been interested in their current roles in their given companies, I was curious about how they ended up where they are.

So, I reached out to them. When talking to these individuals about their career paths (and actually being interested in them rather than their business cards), I felt more connected to them. Furthermore, I learned more about myself, and what I could do with my future based on their choices and experiences. Let me give you some examples (I’m refraining from using real names for the sake of confidentiality, and making up nicknames for the sake of your entertainment).


Scenario #1: Waitress with a Marketing Brain

Waitress works for a different company (not as a waitress, however), but visited Mediavest to talk to the interns. A U of M graduate, she started off her career as a waitress, but used that experience to her advantage. She learned sales techniques, how to market different products to the right audiences, and gained knowledge on customer service and how to interact with consumers. She described herself as an “entertainment enthusiast,” someone who basically watches any show or movie out there. She had numerous jobs in media before her current one, largely because she claimed she gets bored easily and constantly wants to try new things.

What interested me: I could relate to her in that I also love television and movies, I’m from U of M as well, and I get bored very easily in that I refuse to live the same day twice.

What I learned: You don’t have to have knowledge about a particular area to pursue it as your career. In media, you can always hit the ground running and learn on the job, as long as you’re willing to hustle and be confident doing so. I used to always shy away from letting people know how much television I watch, but I learned that I should embrace the title, “entertainment enthusiast.” I really like the sound of that, don’t you? :)


Scenario #2: Music Whisperer

Whisperer graduated college wanting to enter the entertainment industry; more specifically, the music industry. However, at the time, he found that the industry was in a hiring slump. He had interned at Focus Features and Marvel Comics, but his experiences led him to choose the route of an agency. He felt it was a better fit for him because agencies give a broad perspective on the industry, where you have to understand the drive of clients’ business and goals. Even though none of his internship experiences gave him exposure to the agency side of the media industry, he learned that people will always teach you what you need to know as long as you’re willing. To him, the culture of a company is crucial because if you don’t like the people that you work with, even if it’s your dream job, you’ll be miserable.

What interested me: His entertainment-related internships, his knowledge about the opportunities in the industry, and the fact that he, also, becomes bored easily and has a zest for life. At this point, I started to notice a pattern with people working in the media industry.

What I learned: Taking risks and jumping out of your comfort zone can benefit you. Don’t narrow your dream job too much because you may not be aware of another opportunity you’d love more. Therefore, continuously learn, read, study, and adapt.


Scenario #3: Homegirl from Ho(M)e

Homegirl is also a U of M alumna and has worked at the same media agency for a very long time. Before that, she worked at Disney ABC Television Group. However, even though she worked in two different industries (entertainment and media), her career path focused on one common area: recruiting. She discussed good networking techniques: how to make an impression, how they can help you, but also, how you can help them.

What interested me: She was a U of M alumna as well, she worked at Disney ABC Television Group (#goals) where recruiting is all about the connections you have, and her immense networking knowledge.

What I did: I walked up to her and did exactly what she had talked about in terms of good networking. I brought up U of M (which was a hit, as you can imagine), and outright told her that I was interested in the entertainment industry. She replied with a smile, “Well, now you know me. Send over your résumé when you’re looking and I’ll help you out!”

While I know that the last example wasn’t a great one because I was more interested in the connections she had, I did learn a lot from her, however. She helped me see that people know the difference between when you’re sweet-talking them for their connections and when you’re genuinely interested in learning. Keep in mind, however, they have busy lives too. While networking, we have to figure out how we can help THEM, why helping us will benefit THEM, and why they should even take the time.

I learned so much this summer – not just from what my managers and team had taught me on the job, but also, from talking to them about their past and their future goals. The more I talk to people and hear their stories, the more I learn about myself – and that’s why this internship has taught me more than I could have ever imagined. I had the unique opportunity to work with individuals while also learning about their diverse backgrounds. While it’s a different kind of learning than sitting in a classroom, it’s definitely an exciting one.

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Let’s Talk Electronic Literature: Caitlin Lawson

headshotThis past June I had the pleasure of attending the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Housed at the University of Victoria in beautiful British Columbia, DHSI consisted of three weeks of courses focused on diverse topics within the digital humanities. Students may attend one, two or all three weeks of the Institute. With classes on everything from the basics of Ruby on Rails to technology-based literary analysis, DHSI is an excellent resource for scholars who want to learn a new skill, broaden their knowledge of the digital humanities, or delve more deeply into a particular subject area. I went to DHSI with only limited knowledge of the digital humanities and a desire to expand my horizons. While I was nervous that I would feel out of place surrounded by people much better versed in DH, I found that nearly every student I spoke to felt the same way – that they had no idea what they were doing. That was perhaps the most exciting thing about DHSI, because it created an environment of curiosity and comfort, functioning as a space in which students can try new things and take risks in a low-stakes situation.

The course I took was on electronic literature. Focusing on native digital literature (that which was both created and solely viewed on digital devices), the course provided instruction on the basic theory of the topic, how to curate an exhibit of electronic literature, how to create it, and how to teach it. Even though I came to the course largely ignorant of e-lit, I enjoyed learning a variety of new skills and exercising my creativity. With the help of instructors Dene Grigar and Davin Heckman, I designed an exhibition of electronic literature that focused on gender and embodiment. I also coded in JavaScript for the first time and created my own work of electronic literature. For a qualitative scholar who primarily engages in textual analysis and audience research, the course was a fun departure from my day-to-day work and allowed me to diversify my skillset.

In addition to the courses, DHSI also provides opportunities to hear the work of other scholars, network, and explore. Every evening, scholars presented their work during colloquium, allowing students to hear about topics other than that of their particular course. These colloquia were fascinating and occasionally heated; just scroll through #DHSI2015 on Twitter and you’ll see what I mean. There were also organized meet-ups of scholars with similar interests that allowed for networking opportunities. For example, I went to a casual FemTechNet gathering and met other scholars from all over the US and Canada who were interested in feminist DH. DHSI also organizes weekend activities such as hiking and whale watching so students can explore all Victoria has to offer. Overall, I would highly recommend DHSI. Victoria is beautiful, the courses are highly enjoyable, and the other students and instructors are warm and welcoming. It is an excellent place to deepen your understanding of the digital humanities.

*Caitlin’s opportunity to attend DHSI was funded by the Department. 

A Midsummer Night’s Media Policy: Joe Bayer


The Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute, or AnOx for short, occurs each year at the historic University of Oxford in Oxford, UK. At UM Communication Studies, participating in AnOx has become a lively tradition for our emerging academics, researchers, and teachers. Each year the Department of Communication Studies attempts to have one or two Michigan doctoral students selected for the summer program. If selected, the Department provides full funding for the trip.


Sometimes Michigan communication Ph.D. students are already immersed in the world of media policy before attending the program. Other times, our students (like myself) have expertise in other areas of communication studies with the hope of broadening their research agenda. Hence, my personal goal was to learn about contemporary issues and theories related to media policy, and integrate these perspectives into my understanding and ideas for new research.


I am pleased to say that primary goal was accomplished, though not without some initial uncertainty… As someone who works with researchers in the Department of Communication Studies, Department of Psychology, and School of Information at UM, I like to think I draw on a solid range of perspectives. Entering the Oxford Media Policy Institute, however, represented an initial reminder of the limitations of my knowledge base. My own work takes a psychological approach to understand how people engage with new and emerging technologies (e.g., Facebook, Snapchat, Google Glass). And this approach is mostly absent from big picture discussion of media policy actors and implications.


Fortunately, I was relieved to find a group of open-minded individuals that included some scholars, some lawyers, some professionals working at NGOs, and others. Beyond the students from Michigan and Annenberg Schools of Communication who apply each year, a very diverse group of participants contribute to total social experience. The program attempts to incorporate a wide range of nationalities and specialties given range of influences on media policy and global flows of information. There are a few required assignments, but the crux of the program is the interaction and debates among participants.

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Not surprisingly, the program is an extensive time commitment. From 9 AM to 5 PM, a range of speakers, panels, and participant presentations reveal the latest ideas and research related to media law policy. This included heated discussions on well-known issues such as the Ukraine-Russia propaganda war, Edward Snowden, Facebook’s, and censorship across the world. Immediately after the workday ends, we moved on to check out local Oxford activities, attractions, and, of course, pubs. The latter outlet is where some of the most interesting, and sometimes significant, conversations take place. Indeed, it is the discussion between participants that the organizers feel is most essential to the continuity of the Oxford program.


Before long, I had established friendships with policy advocates with very different workan ox 2 from my own. From what I have heard from past students, these connections stay with you long after the last day of the program. For instance, I already have plans to see a participant who works for the World Bank when I visit Washington D.C. this year. After the museums and mugs of ale, we wandered back through the old streets to our “colleges” – adorably compared to the “houses” of Hogwarts. I was told that colleges are an important aspect of Oxford culture since students supposedly have more allegiance to their college than the larger University. Given the intensive work and social schedule, the two weeks in Oxford pass by exceedingly quickly.


In parallel with the AnOx Media Policy Institute, the famous Oxford Internet Institute (OII) also hosts a summer program in July. The two institutes focus on different aspects and perspectives related to media and technology. I spent one of my days at the Internet institute since my core research is centered on communication technologies. Most importantly, the timing of the two institutes allows for an annual football (i.e., soccer) game between the policy and Internet camps! For this reason, OII participants looked me at skeptically on the day I attended and accused me of being a spy for the coming match. Luckily, our policy team successfully defeated the Internet team 4 to 1 (or something like that) due to my espionage.


This year it happened to be that the Oxford trip was the first leg of an extended academic travel adventure taking me around Europe and North America. Following Oxford, I visited other communication researchers and professors in Amsterdam (ND), Montreal (CA), and Colorado (US) before returning to Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan encourages and facilitates its engagement with other specialists across the world during the Ph.D. process. In doing so, we are given the opportunity to build a far-reaching network of researchers, and expand our scopes beyond the United States job market. Overall, my travels to Oxford and beyond provided a memorable set of experiences and social connections before I begin my first search this fall for post-Ph.D. jobs.

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Guest Alumni Blogger: Radhika Menon (’13), Digital Media Planner at Media Storm

RadhikaRadhika Menon is a 2013 alumna in Communication Studies and Psychology. Currently, she is a Digital Media Planner at Media Storm in New York City, working on the Starz Network account. She works to promote new Starz programming across digital media partners such as The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, ESPN and others.


Communication Studies: Tell us a bit about the path you took to get where you are.


Radhika Menon: I became enamored with finding a career in the entertainment media field in college when I interned at The Mark Gordon Company, a TV/film development house in Los Angeles. Afterwards, I sought out more local opportunities on film sets, at social media companies, and at film production companies, and shortly after graduation I decided to move to New York City. I interned at a music public relations firm before moving into a digital role at L’Oreal. About 2 months ago, I used that digital training to transition into my current Digital Media Planning role at Media Storm.


CS: When did you know what field you wanted to go into? What experiences led you there?


RM: I started college thinking that I wanted to go into medicine. After a very rude awakening during general chemistry, I realized that I should play to my strengths — and science was not one of them. I took one Communication Studies class and knew that this was the right field for me. From there, the internships that I did really helped to solidify that decision.


CS: What UM classes or extracurricular activities did you find particularly helpful in your job field?


RM: I still find that many of the Communication Studies classes have not only made me a smarter viewer and more abstract thinker when it comes to media, but also influence my approach when tackling promotion to different demographics. I also worked at the Michigan Daily in the Arts section, covering TV, which gave me my first true foray into the media industry.


CS: Describe a day-in-the-life at work.


RM: The best part about this field is that no two days are the same. Since I’m working on a robust account like Starz, I’m usually working on various parts of the planning process for many different campaigns. A typical day can include anything from exciting brainstorming sessions and meetings with the client to more detail-oriented tasks like filling out creative documents and completing reporting. The job provides a good balance of abstract thinking and implementation, which I really like.


CS: What is one of the best aspects of your work?


RM: The amount of people you get to meet in this job is incredible. We regularly have meetings with a lot of our vendors, and even getting to e-meet people who work at your favorite publications can be really cool. And, as with all jobs, seeing the end product of all of your hard work is always rewarding, whether it’s a custom editorial piece or video, or just seeing the placements on a site.


CS: What is one of the most valuable lessons you have learned from this job?


RM: Being flexible and having the ability to pivot. Sometimes these media plans change at the last second and it’s important to be able to go with the flow and make changes quickly. Also, always be polite and cordial – the world is small and you never know when you’ll cross paths with someone again.


CS: Provide some advice for students working towards internships and full-time opportunities in the communications field.


RM: I have a couple. First, don’t be deterred when you don’t land something in the field you want right away. It took me a lot of time and a lot of jobs before I found something in entertainment, and each position was helpful in getting me here. Second, keep your LinkedIn updated. The rumors are true — recruiters really do use the social tool to find prospective employees, so having the most up-to-date profile will only benefit you. (I actually got my current job through LinkedIn, so I’m not just saying it!) And lastly, utilize the Michigan alumni network to your fullest. I have landed some of my internships through alums, and every job I’ve had has had some kind of a Michigan connection. Go blue!


Radhika will be returning to Ann Arbor in November as a panelist for our Entertainment Media Career Forum! Students are encouraged to attend to learn more about her journey.

Designing (and Teaching!) a New Course – Darren Stevenson

Darren StevensonMeet Darren Stevenson. He is a doctoral candidate in Communication Studies at the University of Michigan and a Junior Affiliate Scholar at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. Darren’s background and training are in digital media, information technology, and data visualization. This led him to pursue a Ph.D. studying the intersection of computing and communication where his research focuses on personal data, trust, privacy, and message personalization in the context of “programmatic” marketing and advertising.

Prior to coming to Michigan, Darren managed the Visualization Laboratory at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology and studied in the Institute of Communications Research, the College of Engineering, and the School of Art & Design, all at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He’s had the opportunity to study and do research in a number of labs and universities in the U.S. and abroad, including the School of Computer Science and Communication at the Royal Institute of Technology KTH in Stockholm. Most recently at Michigan, Darren has served as a member of the Media Psychology Laboratory at the Institute for Social Research and the Infrastructure Research Laboratory in the Department of Communication Studies and the School of Information.

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Darren with some of his Comm 404 undergraduate students


Comm Studies:  You just finished instructing a course that you designed. Can you give us an introduction to your course?


Darren Stevenson: Sure! This spring semester I was fortunate to design and teach my own course, Marketing in a Connected World (Communication Studies 404). The purpose of the class was to expose students to an array of ideas and emerging practices in data-driven, digital marketing. Most college students are captivated by social media and spend substantial portions of their days connected to each other through various social channels using smartphones and other devices. The course allowed students to examine the marketing system that supports most of the digital tools they frequently use, often without giving them a second thought, including social media platforms, search engines, and e-commerce websites and apps.

To examine these tools and their implications, we began with fundamentals of marketing, like pricing, segmentation, and advertising. From there, we moved on to more specific technical issues in the field, including the influence of algorithms, predictive analytics, and the practice of buying and selling online ad space automatically (i.e. often in real-time while a webpage or app is loading), referred to as “programmatic advertising.” To balance the technical content we also explored the many social, ethical, and policy concerns that accompany marketing activities today. So we read a lot about privacy and consumer protection, discussing best practices and working through arguments for and against personalized advertising and regulation.

These two strands of content, marketing technology and related social concerns, supported the formal course objectives. These goals were for students to 1. Understand key technical components of today’s internet-based, data-driven, integrated marketing system and how these components serve marketers, consumers, and the broader digital economy and 2. Develop a critical understanding of the impacts of recent marketing technologies and practices, including ongoing ethical and policy issues related to marketing.


CS: What was it like to design your own course?


DS: The freedom to design a new course was both exciting and challenging.  Creating a class from scratch was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and a tremendous experience. To have fairly wide latitude in inventing a new University of Michigan course was really an honor. Most of our students are extremely engaged and place high standards for teaching on their professors. Additionally, students and often their parents are putting forth substantial financial resources to receive a Michigan education. All of this means students often have great expectations when they enter the classroom. So I felt a great sense of responsibility to create and deliver a course where students could learn a lot and leave the class different from when they began.


CS: What motivated you to pursue this opportunity?


DS: Two things really. First, it is a very exciting time for digital marketing. The state-of-the-art has changed considerably in just the past 5-10 years, largely the result of new ways to observe and study consumers and then tailor advertising messages across digital devices. At the same time, these technical advances have raised a number of social and policy issues surrounding privacy and fairness, especially when it comes to how information about consumers is collected and put to use.

There is a flurry of activity surrounding recent developments in marketing technology and related conversations about the social implications. So you have very timely subject matter most college students are familiar with and experience all the time (i.e. targeted advertising). This provides a topic through which students can gain practical skills linked to communications theories they’ve encountered before, such as ideas about message reception, persuasion, and power. The topic also forces students to wrestle through larger societal concerns ranging from human agency and social discrimination to policy matters, like how best to regulate or not regulate emerging technologies and media practices.

Second, regarding practical skills, for a while now undergraduate students in the Department of Communication Studies have expressed the desire for additional hands-on courses. I do a bit of consulting in marketing and advertising technology, so I was eager to impart some of these skills to students who will soon be entering a very competitive job market. Even for those who are not considering a career in marketing, it never hurts to have some experience analyzing numerical data and communicating technical information. Today, mentioning these analytical skills in a cover letter or job interview might help students stand out from their peers. So, quite purposefully, there were several course components very similar to what students would encounter in various digital media jobs, including analyzing web traffic, publisher costs, click-through rates, and sales data, all from actual ad campaigns, and then making recommendations and writing formal reports.  I was excited to create a course that was really hands-on, especially if it can give students a little boost in their applications for internships and jobs.


CS: What were the types of skills you refined by designing and teaching this course?


DS: First of all, I learned course design is an art form. It requires a completely different skillset from being a teaching assistant or implementing someone else’s course, which is what we typically encounter in our Ph.D. training. I learned a lot from constructing a coherent syllabus. As anyone who has created a new course before can attest, it’s fairly easy to come up with a new course; it’s not so easy to design a good course, especially one that integrates well with the existing curriculum and keeps students engaged. Similarly, when it comes to content and assignments, it’s a fine balance between overwhelming students and boring them.

I also became much better at writing lectures and delivering them. In graduate school we typically have the chance to refine our public speaking skills whenever we present research at conferences or seminars. These opportunities occur only a handful of times each year (if we’re lucky!).

However, as the primary lecturer for a new course, you are not only writing content but also delivering it to students multiple times per week for the entire term. Standing in front of a full class of students and having to perform again and again each session is a great trial-by-fire experience. You realize you really have no choice but to become comfortable with yourself and how you deliver information while a bunch of people stare at you assessing your every word (and non-verbal cues!). For me, after a little while the whole process became more automatic and much more conversational. I think it’s definitely a case of practice makes perfect. I actually learned a lot about communication.


CS: What were some of the challenges you experienced?


DS: The largest challenge was the breakneck pace of the course, which was compounded by some of the technical subject matter. The Michigan spring and summer term courses condense what would usually be 16 weeks of material into just 8 weeks, allowing students to earn the full number of units for a regular course but at in accelerated period. This means we had to cover an enormous amount of material in a short time. The pacing leaves little room for dwelling on a particular topic, question, or concept. I pushed the students pretty hard on the volume of readings we covered, which they let me know about on a regular basis!

Other challenges that came up were less problematic, like the relative disparity in students’ previous experiences. Some students had worked in summer internships and were quite familiar with a lot of marketing practices and terminology. For others it was the first time they had encountered some of the core concepts. This smoothed out as the semester progressed and the less familiar students got up to speed.

Also, our classroom was tucked away in the basement of the Modern Languages Building. In the summer. For a two-hour class period. Three times a week. Nobody was particularly thrilled about spending that much time in a drab basement in the summer, but we all survived!


CS: What was one of the biggest lessons you learned from creating and teaching your own course?


DS: The biggest takeaway for me was the importance of being adaptable, especially when teaching new content. Envisioning how a given reading or assignment will be understood, or how an in-class activity will proceed, is very different from actually testing it in the wild. Things do not always go as planned and it was important for me to learn to roll with it. Something I envisioned to be a great thought experiment may end up simply confusing students. Assignment parameters that seem fine on paper may turn out to contradict when attempted by students. Or what I think of as a “brilliant” article to engage students may conjure a collective response of “meh” or silence from the class. Being able to adapt on the fly was important.

Additionally, college students can be wonderfully unpredictable. Some days the whole class seemed to be filled with tiger blood – they had read ALL the material for that day, even the footnotes, and showed up to class excited to debate new ideas from the literature. Other days it felt like everyone was asleep and/or had a little too much fun the night before. Learning how to deal with the unexpected and adapt a discussion or an entire class period was really important. I learned to be more flexible. Hopefully the students did too.


CS: Looking back, how did this opportunity impact you?


DS: Designing and teaching this course has definitively been one of the highlights of my time in the Ph.D. program. It was really rewarding to watch students learn new concepts and skills and be a direct part of this. I felt a sense of accomplishment whenever students would mention they had not encountered a particular idea before or that they had learned something about how a technology they use all the time (e.g. social media platforms, web browsers, etc.) works under the hood.

Additionally, the class was composed of juniors and seniors who occasionally discussed the jobs and careers they hope to pursue very soon when they graduate. Several of the students expressed aspirations for working in digital marketing. It was exciting to have the opportunity to expand their skillsets and critical understandings of current issues. For the students who plan to go on to careers in digital media or information technology, it was satisfying to feel that the course was having a real impact on their next steps.

Overall, the experience stretched me in many ways. I learned about leading a class all on my own and also a lot about myself. It helped me think through my own career plans and what path I’ll pursue next year when I finish my Ph.D. Having the opportunity to design and teach a course as a Ph.D. student is a great opportunity. Also, the students were excellent and that makes a huge difference. I would do it all over again. Although, after being stuck in the classroom for much of the summer, I’m also glad it’s over!


Darren Stevenson is on fellowship for the fall term and will defend his dissertation in 2016. He is currently on the job market.  For additional details, please see


Summer Internship Series: Hannah Schiff

Hannah Schiff photoFor the past four weeks I have been interning at Clique. Clique is the content and technology company behind the fashion brand Who What Wear, which is the leading platform for shoppable fashion and style content. Clique also owns the beauty site Byrdie and the lifestyle site MyDomaine. As an avid reader of Who What Wear for many years, excitement was an understatement when I received news that I had earned this internship.

I am an Affiliate Partnerships Intern, working on all of Clique’s platforms. For those of you who don’t know what affiliate partnerships are (I didn’t when I started), they are the business relationships that Clique has with the various brands and companies that are featured on the three websites. These partnerships are a source of revenue for Clique, as the company makes a commission from products featured on the site that are then purchased by consumers. The Affiliate Partnerships department also focuses on SHOP, Clique’s e-commerce site, where all the products featured are shoppable. Boutiques such as “Stylish & Comfortable Shoes to Wear to the Airport” or “The Most Powerful Waterproof Mascaras” that are developed by Clique editors are featured on the site. Everything in the boutiques can be purchased online.

Over the past few weeks, I have been working on numerous different projects, all of which have been interesting and exciting. I normally start my day by going through all three sites (Who What Wear, Byrdie, and MyDomaine) and doing edit inclusions. Edit inclusions is the process of reviewing all articles on the sites, and noting if and when an affiliate partner product is featured. All of this information is crucial to ensuring that a promotion with each specific brand runs effectively. In addition, I have been working with different affiliate networks by researching trends in sales for different companies.

On the more creative side of my job, I help develop numerous “boutiques” for SHOP during each week. I am able to handpick products that I think would fit within the parameters of each specific boutique and that are aligned with Clique standards. My favorite part of the internship so far is writing social media posts that direct readers to different SHOP boutiques. I have been scheduling social posts since the first week, but more recently I have been given the opportunity to write the content that I schedule. As a Communication Studies major and Writing minor, I love writing and it has been so fun to write for Clique. Social posts, however, are a lot harder to create than I thought. When crafting posts, I have to use a specific style that not only engages the reader, but also makes them want to click on the link.

So far I have really enjoyed my internship at Clique. Given that I hope to one-day work for a fashion magazine, working at Clique this summer has been an amazing opportunity!


Summer Internship Series: Sarah Scott

This summer, I have the pleasure of serving as a marketing intern with Merit, a cause-based fashion brand located here in Ann Arbor that shapes the fate of students in need by helping send them to college. Merit does this by donating 20% of ALL revenue to fund college scholarships. It’s an amazing cause that I’m truly passionate about.


I actually discovered this internship opportunity in the Communication Studies weekly emails that Cheryl Erdmann, the Undergraduate Program Coordinator for the Department, sends out. Prior to receiving the email, I had already been following Merit closely as its cause is one that I highly regard. Dave Merritt, founder of Merit Goodness, has hosted multiple events on campus so I have also had the opportunity to hear him speak on various occasions.


In order to land the position, I went through what I felt was a standard application process. I followed-up with the weekly email and sent my resume and cover letter to Merit. I was fortunate enough to be one of the students selected for an interview. From there, the rest is history.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with such an amazing brand.


This summer has certainly been a whirlwind.  Not only is it the summer before my senior year officially starts, but I also celebrated my 21st birthday in June at a Merit event.  On my birthday I had the unique opportunity to attend Virgin Atlantic’s “Ain’t Too Proud to Pitch” event at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit representing Merit! I will always remember this special night.


“Ain’t Too Proud to Pitch” was an event to celebrate the launch of the new Virgin Atlantic flight service between Detroit and London. The event provided networking opportunities, insight and discussion for an audience of 300 guests, made up of media, Detroit influencers and business owners. Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, was the host accompanied by a panel consisting of Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, Bridget Russo, chief marketing officer for Shinola, and Adirel Thompson, founder of Digital Laundre. At the event, Dave Meritt, founder of Merit had the chance to pitch the Merit story to Richard and the rest of the panel.


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(Merit Marketing Interns at Virgin Atlantic’s “Ain’t Too Proud to Pitch.” I’m wearing red.)

Prior to the event, interns were instructed to create a social media content calendar to be utilized to generate awareness about Merit and its involvement in Virgin Atlantic’s “Ain’t Too Proud to Pitch” event. As part of this calendar, we collaboratively developed posts across all social media platforms announcing Merit’s involvement in “Ain’t Too Proud to Pitch” generating approximately 204 likes more than the average in just two days! It was very rewarding to know that we were successful in engaging with the public on social media through our posts.


Needless to say, this “Ain’t Too Proud to Pitch” event was an incredible experience and a fabulous way to spend my birthday! I could go on and on about how wonderful Merit is but it is better you see for yourself. If you’re in Ann Arbor, be sure to stop by the store at 1113 S. University Ave and support; if not, make sure you visit to check out our products and learn more about the cause.


I’m thrilled to continue learning and putting my skills to use through this internship. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store!


Summer Internship Series: Nathan Novaria

A Summer in Pure Michigan

Nathan Novaria_1I enjoy work that positively impacts the lives of people, so when the time came to search for an internship position, I decided to return to my old stomping grounds for another summer instead of looking for a new job. Located in my hometown of Kalamazoo, MI, Southwest Michigan First (SMF) is nonprofit economic development organization that is passionate about cultivating a strong future in the seven counties that make up our region. Established in 1999 on the principle that the most powerful force for change is a well-paying job, it focuses on projects and initiatives that positively impact the lives of people.  With its unique model of philanthropy and capitalism, the organization is internationally recognized from Melbourne to Vancouver for its innovation in the field of economic development.


As a double major in Communication Studies and Organizational Studies, the position as a Communications Fellow seamlessly blends together my courses of study at the University of Michigan and provides me with the opportunity to look at my projects through a variety of lenses.  Within the position, I primarily work on the marketing team assisting with the strategic branding efforts of each part of the organization. Most recently, SMF launched an internship search site,, which provides students at the surrounding universities in Kalamazoo County with helpful application preparation and interview resources as well as a list of internships posted by local companies throughout the entirety of the year. Collaborating with a team of two awesome supervisors, I assisted in the execution of a launch strategy that helped market the site to our two target groups: college students and businesses.  Through crafting audience-focused marketing content and utilizing Hootesuite, a social media management software program, as well as other various online marketing resources, the website has seen a successful launch. Companies are able to connect directly with young talent looking for professional experience before entering the workforce, and college students can gain valuable insight into the application process before beginning their job search.


In addition to fine tuning my marketing and social media skills, the project has also allowed me to work with a passionate team of individuals and continue to develop my own work aesthetic. Organizational efficiency is a key component in the operations and practices in Southwest Michigan First. By collaborating, setting benchmarks and effectively managing each of our tasks, we are accomplishing our set goals and ensuring the mission of SMF is fulfilled.  Each individual is an integral part of the work that we do within the organization.  Though each member has their strengths and weaknesses, united together we are able to accomplish work in an efficient and effective manner that one individual could not do alone. I am thankful for this opportunity to work with an award-winning nonprofit filled with mentors and leaders that are making a difference in the lives of others.


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Nathan Novaria and the other SMF interns



Top Student Paper Award – Rebecca Yu

Rebecca Yu photoMeet Rebecca Yu.  Not only did she just graduate from the University of Michigan, earning a Ph.D. in Communication Studies, but she recently completed a stellar dissertation.  Even the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication agreed.  Their Political Communication Interest Group (PCIG) division, whose “mission is to explore the interplay between communication and politics,” awarded her the Top Student Paper Award (PCIG).  In other words, the award is a big honor.


Yu has always been fascinated by organized political action, such as the Arab Spring, and how social media is used as a tool in which to do so.  Not surprisingly, her dissertation reflects this interest of hers.  Her paper, “When the personal becomes the political: The relationship between passive and active non-political and political social media use,” seeks to understand the implications of social media use for political engagement.


Yu found that prior research on social media and political engagement often focused on the idea that people purposefully utilize social media for certain outcomes.  “It’s based more on uses and gratifications,” she explained.  “Most research focuses on how political and informational social media uses influence political outcomes.” While Yu recognized that most people do not use social media for solely political purposes, it is likely that political engagement may arise from everyday, non-political social media use.


Yu elaborated, “Research shows that we want to use Facebook and Twitter for personal matters: to consume entertainment information, to connect with friends, family, and other social ties.  Thus, my argument is that when we consume entertaining and personal information on social media, we are likely to be exposed to all kinds of information, including political information.”  Yu characterizes this exposure to political information as incidental.


At the same time, as people actively generate content about private interests, they are more likely to express their political views when opportunities arise.  So, do people use social media to pursue their political interests?  Absolutely. Most people use it for their personal purposes, but as Yu discovered, that can be extended to the political realm.


For example, in 2013 the Human Rights Campaign launched a pro-gay-marriage movement that went viral on Facebook.  As a symbol of support, 2.77 million Facebook users changed their profile picture to an equal sign.  Referencing this example, Yu believes that when individuals witness other people taking political stances on social media, they may grasp a better understanding of the issue.  Thus, this political engagement online may be a way for those typically deemed “not interested” in politics to be exposed or even compelled to engage in political issues.


Yu noted that the research for her dissertation would not have been possible without the “amazing” and “supportive” community of the Department of Communication Studies.  She praised advisors and professors for providing insightful comments regarding the direction of her research and pointing out possibilities she may have overlooked.  Yu humbly remarked, “When we see an award we see this person spotlighted as if it’s all about her or all about him.  But actually, I don’t think so.  It’s a team.  It’s a whole village behind this person.  It’s about the support, not only just financial, but emotional support from the college and department.  They’re all behind it.”


Rebecca Yu recently graduated from the University of Michigan and will be presenting her award winning work at AEJMC’s conference in San Francisco this August.








“About.” AEJMC RSS. AEJMC, 12 Nov. 2009. Web. 11 June 2015.

Chokshi, Niraj. “Facebook Breaks down the Geography of a Viral Pro-gay-marriage Campaign.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 10 Dec. 2013. Web. 11 June 2015.

Summer Internship Series: Katelin Toporski

The Skinny on my Summer: Tips from a Fat Camp Intern

1I stood at the train station in Grand Rapids, MI, anxiously waiting to board. Since February, I’d been dreaming of the day that my “Big New York Adventure” would start.

In October, I eagerly applied for internships, hoping that some glamorous company would catch my eye, hire me immediately, and pay me a disgusting amount of money…apparently that’s not how the internship hunt works.

I watched my friends within the Communication Studies program get hired by Chevy, the PGA Tour, and even the New York Times! I was beyond envious, until I finally received a Skype interview from Camp 2Shane, New York’s infamous weight-loss camp. About two weeks after my interview, I was offered the position of Social Media & Marketing intern!

No, it wasn’t in the city. No, it wasn’t high-paying. No, it was not what I had in mind when I originally began my search for the internship of my dreams. But, it was an opportunity for growth, improvement, and the implementation of the skills I had learned during my first two years of Communications prerequisites. (Plus, another chance to drop the lingering remnants of my “Freshman 15”).

3After an 18-hour train ride, an awkward, train station pick-up from a coworker who only listened to Nickelback, and various phone calls to update my ever-worrying mother, I arrived in the boondocks of upstate New York to start what was sure to be an interesting summer. I was hurtled into the land of social media management, SEO (search engine optimization), fitness blogging, and healthy eating. From Zumba to spin class, cooking to nutrition, I’m the public’s secret eye to the inside of the camp with all the secrets to fighting childhood obesity.

Approaching my three week mark of the nine I’ll be here at Shane, I look back to see what I’ve learned thus far…

  1. Being on time is important. Whether you work for a Fortune 500 or a summer camp, make sure you’re punctual.
  2. Set goals for yourself. Make a list of what you need to accomplish for the day, the week, the month, the summer! You’ll get things done when you have a list.
  3. Social media is so real and so important. Parents, campers, perspective clients, relatives, etc. LOVE seeing pictures and updates. One of the key tools in being successful in marketing and recruiting is having a solid platform on several social media sites.
  4. Confidence is important, drive is huge, but passion is key. Enter into projects with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Blow them out of the water with your dedication, your ideas, and your get-it-done and get-it-done-well attitude.
  5. Don’t forget to have fun. While most hours I’m typing up healthy-living blogs, making copies, or sounding overly-excited while answering the phone, I still find time to have the4 traditional summer camp fun. Make friends and memories; take advantage of this wonder that is summer.

So, whether you’re waiting tables, babysitting, or interning big this summer, redefine your name, create an outstanding work ethic, and grow your skills in every way possible.

While I’m losing some pounds, interning at fat camp is helping me gain so much more.

Kate out.