JHU_Allison Gets Hands-On

Anyone who has survived the grueling process that is undergraduate admissions is familiar with The Information Session. This seems like a Very Big Deal at your first campus visit, chock full of vital information! Invaluable insights! But by tour 7 or 8, The Information Session is less “inside look” and more “45 minutes of white noise.” This is not to discredit the value of The Information Session—my counselor’s description of Hopkins’ distribution system was a major factor in my admissions decision. But, for the sake of being candid, let’s call a spade a spade: Information Sessions tend to all sound the same. I blame what I’ve coined “Information Session Buzzwords,” those pesky little bits of the school’s marketing lexicon streamlined across all websites, pamphlets, and overzealous tour guides. Career planning! Campus culture! Opportunities for growth! And my personal favorite: Hands-on learning.

Hands-on learning never seemed to apply to the likes of me, a Humanities major with a penchant for creative writing. When it comes to engineering and the sciences, hands-on learning is easy to visualize. Hopkins is riddled with high-tech labs just begging for an experiment or two. But a Writing Seminars major with a Marketing & Communications minor? I deal primarily in abstraction. When I pictured my four years at Hopkins, I figured I’d be holed up in Gilman with my laptop and a pile of dusty old books. And that hands-free vision suited me just fine.

Enter a marketing class I took this semester, more specifically, Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communications. I’d heard of this class because of the huge presence it develops on campus every spring. The class transforms into a fully-functional, student-run ad agency, complete with a real-world client. This year, we planned and implemented an integrated marketing campaign for Full Society, a mobile payment app founded by one of our very own JHU alums. If that’s not hands-on learning, then I don’t know what is.

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As co-manager of the PR & Social Media department, I was up to my eyeballs in press releases, Snapchat contests, and Facebook metrics. A day in the life of JHU_Allison during our implementation period included early-morning interviews with press and countless hours spent assembling press kit materials, snapping photos at events, and drafting social copy. It was the most stressful, exhausting, and rewarding experience I could have imagined. Amidst all of the logistical nightmares, I also did some crazy, comfort-zone-defying things, like being interviewed by The Daily Record and Omar Jimenez from WBAL-TV. (Fear not, my grandmother has graciously emailed the clip to everyone she’s ever met.) I can safely say I have never done anything this grounded in real-world experience in my time at Hopkins.

Starstruck? Who's starstruck? I'm not starstruck.
Starstruck? Who’s starstruck? I’m not starstruck.

Needless to say, I’m warming to the idea of hands-on learning. And I’ve changed my tune when it comes to its exclusivity—there’s something experiential for every major at Hopkins, if you’re willing to look for it. This Saturday, my fellow managers and I will present the results of our campaign to the client, and I couldn’t be more excited to show off our efforts. And in three weeks, I start my summer PR internship at one of Baltimore’s biggest ad agencies. I spent both interviews chatting about the experience I’d gained during this very class. The talented (and excruciatingly well-dressed) Omar Jimenez says it best: “There are many skills students learn in school they admit they will probably never use again. But for a group of Johns Hopkins integrated marketing students, that is not the case at all.”