Photo by GINGER PERRY/ The Winchester Star
Shenandoah University Marketing Communications students Fahad Alfawzan (from left) and Khalid Alshammari talk with SU Associate Associate Professor Giles Jackson about the research they are working on for a firm that is generating marketing content for the British overseas territory, Montserrat, an island in the Caribbean.
What happens when an environmental designer in Britain films a Dove soap commercial with a fellow Brit whose cousin is a British-American associate professor at Shenandoah University?
French, Vietnamese, American and Saudi Arabian students in SU’s marketing communications class end up working with an international marketing firm and a British-based nonprofit group to help with conservation efforts on an island in the Caribbean.
A “chance meeting” between SU Associate Professor Giles Jackson and a cousin at his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in England resulted in the two developing a partnership between his marketing communications class and the international marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather and LABS Montserrat, a nonprofit group that aims to provide laboratories, teaching facilities and accommodations to scientists, students and eco-tourists on the island of Montserrat, in the Caribbean.
SU students have been working with the two organizations throughout the fall semester.
The island was partially destroyed by a volcanic explosion in the late 1990s. Corinna Gage, project director for LABS Montserrat, was the environmental designer who was filmed in the Dove commercial with Jackson’s cousin, press and online manager Sally Freeman.
“My life is just one big random event after another,” Jackson said of the way the events played out. “When you stand back and look at it, it’s quite interesting.”
Jackson worked with Gage and Freeman to design a project for his 26 students to perform background research for the nonprofit group.
“They (LABS Montserrat) didn’t have the resources to do the research themselves,” said Jackson. “I think they were very happy we were able to help.”
Students researched topics such as sustainable building design, ecotourism and worldwide island-conservation trends to help the nonprofit group generate ideas to be used in its communications campaign, as well as collect general information for its business plan.
Junior Rachel Stalker, who is interested in pursuing a career working with nonprofit groups, said the project was a good opportunity to get hands-on experience working with charities. She also said working with a real client, rather than just researching a topic and writing a paper, provided valuable experience. Jackson said it was many students’ first time working with a real client.
“It was like a whole new course,” senior Reem Alfehaid said. “We had to collect data on things we didn’t know about. We didn’t know if we did a good job or not….It depends on the reactions of the client.”
Jackson said the project is the latest in a series of hands-on student learning projects.
“I do think they (students) get more out of it,” he said. “You have to provide new types of experiences. That’s imperative.”
Students used slides to present their findings to LABS Montserrat last week using ZOOM, an online video conferencing program, and will share more detailed reports next week using Google Drive.
Jackson said the students have already seen tangible results from their work. On Thursday, he informed students that the Montserrat government had granted LABS Montserrat land to build the lab on the island for free. He believes it is partially a result of the students’ work.
“I believe we gave them some good ideas,” he said.
Junior Khalid Alshammari said the project, and its results, were rewarding.
“I like to work with real-life problems,” he said. “It makes me excited to know I’m not wasting my time just studying and learning stuff.”
— Contact Amy Alonzo at firstname.lastname@example.org
By AMY ALONZO The Winchester Star
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