Service-Learning Students Compete in an "Apprentice"-Themed Showdown


ccny-powell-center-hic-client-pitch “It’s like ‘The Apprentice’,” explained Nancy Tag, chair of the Media & Communication Arts Department at City College—except for the lack of cameras and Donald Trump. “The Client Pitch” on May 16 was a celebratory and competitive event, the culmination of the capstone course in CCNY's Advertising and Public Relations (Ad/PR) program, a service-learning course sponsored by the Colin Powell Center.

The Setup

The contestants: 31 students in the Ad/PR Workshop, divided into three teams: Phoenix, Introspect, and Intermix.

The client: the Healthy CUNY Initiative (HCI), an effort to make the City University of New York the healthiest urban university in the country by 2016.

The challenge: research, execute and evaluate a full-scale communications campaign to reduce the incidence and severity of depression among City College students.

The judges: Patti Lamberson and Luis Manzo, representatives from HCI, and Natalie Tavares, an advertising executive and alum of the Ad/PR program (’07).

The Competition

Each team delivered a 20-minute pitch that covered their approach to battling depression, their “big idea,” their print, radio and web advertising, and their results. Team Phoenix focused on the link between stress and depression, hosting a “stress buddy mixer” to form relationships that would ultimately prevent depression.

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Team Introspect also singled out stress reduction as the best way to fight depression on campus. The tone of their campaign was “dramatic, direct, emotional, personal,” they said, but they themselves were quite funny. For their public event, they issued invitations made to look like course withdrawal forms—emphasizing that overworked students must “Know Your Limit,” as their slogan went.

The winning entry came from Team Intermix, which presented “Commingle!” Their logic was simple: A rewarding social life lowers the risk of depression. To engage college students, Intermix wanted to create such a social life on the CCNY campus, with the slogan: “Stay. Be Happy. Commingle.”

The Intermix students made their flyers into paper airplanes; they blew bubbles during their presentation to accompany their call for others to “Join Our Bubble.” The judges were impressed: “We liked their positive approach to dealing with stress. We also really liked their creative ways of getting people involved—namely the flyers and bubbles,” said Patti Lamberson, Healthy CUNY project coordinator.

Natalie Taveras, the judge and Ad/PR program alum, was impressed by all three:

Each presentation was polished, organized, and filled with lavender pride. More importantly, each team had strong strategic insights that supported the overall creative and campaign direction. These are the same things top advertising and PR agencies strive for.

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An Educational Experience

For the students in the Ad/PR Workshop, it was a one-of-a-kind course. Rose Dionicio called it “a really great life experience,” and appreciated having the chance to impact people. Samantha Harrison said, “working in the real work force was definitely fun,” but noted that the class was, at the same time, a little more difficult than a conventional course.

The course highlights the Center’s commitment to service-learning as a vehicle for engaged scholarship to effect positive change. Professor Tag highlights the Ad/PR program’s partnerships with organizations working for the public good:

Service-learning not only gives our students an opportunity to work with actual clients who have real needs and goals, but teaches our students that their disciplines can lift up our communities and society in positive, powerful ways. To this end, our senior thesis workshops have been exclusively working with community partners to promote their missions, advance their causes, and improve lives for the last six years.

Past community partners include Champion Mortgage’s Spend Smart Program, the New York Organ Donor Network, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

There is no prize for Team Intermix (other than the joy and pride of winning), but HCI may use some of the approaches presented by all three teams in upcoming campaigns on CUNY campuses.

Students in the Ad/PR program, led by director Lynn Appelbaum, receive a BA in communications. The program is the largest in the Media & Communication Arts Department, with more than 200 active majors. —Alex Davies

Alex Davies is communications coordinator for the Colin Powell Center. Read more about him and our other contributors here.

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