Photo Courtesy:Joanie Harmon-Whetmore
|The interning students helped bring executives from both the HDC and university together.|
City and University Co-founder
Establishes CBAPP Scholarship Fund
arguably the most successful partnership between CSUDH and the Home
Depot Center (HDC) since the multi-million dollar sports facility
came to campus, a group of marketing interns spent the academic year
meeting high-power executives, working HDC events, and developing
the ideas, storyboards, and budget for two proposed 30-second
advertisement spots to promote the university and partnership during
events at the HDC. In the process, they gained a slew of
real-world experience, generated a buzz about the program among
students within CBAPP, and helped bring the two institutions closer
The idea for the program was first drawn up as a part of the agreement between the CSU and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) a few years ago. And while the roots have been in place for some time, it wasn’t until last fall that it began in earnest with the appointment of Natasa Christodoulidou, assistant professor of management, as the faculty advisor of the program. Alison Groendel, director of communications for the HDC, directed the program, and the six students raved that she went out of her way to make the paid internship a valuable experience for them.
“Spending time with students in an educational capacity outside of the classroom, that can sometimes be the best learning opportunities they can get. I know because I had such experiences while I was in school,” says Groendel. “So I personally wanted to make sure these students got the best experiences possible.”
The students – senior Crystal Nelson, marketing; junior Corey Cohen, marketing; Beverly Harris (B.A. Marketing, 2006); junior John Cunningham, marketing; senior Carlos Alvarez, marketing; and senior Danny Donayre, communications – met with Groendel two days a week and were exposed to the inner-workings of the world-class sports complex and company. They got face time with some of the top executives including HDC General Manager Ron O’Connor, ran promotions and the press box during L.A. Galaxy soccer games, and volunteered additional time at other events at the complex.
Yet, most of their attention was focused on building the 30-second spots that were slated to air on the jumbotron during events at the HDC. The first concept worked as a montage showing the intertwined workings of the university and HDC. The second concept used the image of a rolling through campus life to bring home the tagline, “CSUDH, Building Success One Goal at a Time.”
In April they presented the storyboards and two concepts to some of the biggest names within both organizations – the top executives within the HDC, the university’s vice presidents and president, and the CBAPP advisory board that is made up of some of the area’s top CEOs, executives, and public sector leaders. Each group was floored by the presentations, as Dean Jim Strong explains: “Their presentation absolutely wowed me – they were professional, their ideas were incredibly creative, and they made great impressions on the advisory board members. It’s moments like that that remind me what I am working for here at this university.”
In the end, though, the concepts were not produced because both organizations thought the other would pay for the production costs. It was hard reality to swallow for the interns, but one that reflected the business world realities they had come to understand. And then they were able to step back to recognize the experience’s value for not only themselves, but the HDC/CSUDH partnership as well.
“We definitely went through a phase where we were pretty bummed out,” remembers Donayre, one of the interns. “But then once we had a little time to step back, we realized it was an incredible experience. We really grew as students and individuals. But even beyond that, I think we were maybe a catalyst to bring both sides of this partnership closer together. I think executives at the Home Depot Center and the university’s top administrators were equally excited about the work we did. So I think that maybe we helped them recognize the power and potential of this partnership.”
That’s quite a powerful idea – students as catalysts to help the public-private partnership bloom where top executives might not have previously been able to – but it’s representative of the way these students matured into professionals throughout the program.
“It was certainly a bit nerve-wracking the first time we met with some of the top executives at the HDC. But by the time we presented to the CBAPP Advisory Board, I felt confident and professional,” says Alvarez.
“Some of them even came up to us after the presentation to ask us for input on their own marketing campaigns,” says Donayre.
And as these six students matured and helped tighten the fabric between the HDC and the university, they also generated an excitement among their peers that will certainly carry over to next year as the program continues.
“This wasn’t just about six students,” says Christodoulidou. “They created an excitement that spread throughout the college. There was a real buzz in my classes whenever one of them would explain the opportunities they were getting within the program.
“I’ve had students ask me almost every day how to apply for next year. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a very competitive and one of the popular opportunities we offer our students next year and for years to come.”
Have a question or comment?
E-mail the editor.