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Strategic Communication Seminar Pitches Campaigns to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts

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Media, Film & Journalism Studies

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By Jada Pearson (senior, strategic communication), Abby Reider (senior, strategic communication), and Rayna Rosenthal (junior, strategic communication)

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is the largest non-profit theater in the country and they sought our help!

Strategic Communications student writing on a whiteboard

Undergraduate students enrolled in the DU Strategic Communication Seminar course this winter quarter worked alongside the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) to create a public relations and marketing campaign to help the organization reach young adults. The fourteen-person class was challenged to create a communications campaign to bridge the gap between the arts and younger generations.

In this hands-on course (a "Keystone Experience"), students majoring in strategic communication learn through practice, focusing on leadership, teamwork, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. The DCPA project also engages students with the performing arts, encouraging them to participate in the city's cultural life.

For the first seven weeks of winter quarter, three groups created separate campaign plans designed to increase attendance of 18 to 25 year olds at DCPA productions. To show young adults that theater is relevant and accessible, the class created strategies aimed at three segmented markets: fine arts college students and their friends; young and new-in-town professionals; and Denver experience seekers. They conducted research and created communication plans that they presented to the client at the DCPA offices in downtown Denver.

As the largest theater non-profit in the United States, the DCPA presents an engaging array of Broadway tours and produces their own theater, cabaret, musicals and immersive plays. The DCPA strives for inclusivity and authenticity by offering a variety of productions. As the course professor, Erika Polson, PhD, explained, "the students wanted people to think of the DCPA as being at the heart of the Denver experience, and the best idea to come out of the project was the winning message: Do Denver. Do DCPA."

Capstone student Hugo Sykes said he appreciated the collaborative nature of the course: "I highly enjoyed my time working closely with my teammates and the DCPA team. This experience enhanced my interest and reassured me that this area of work and career path is exactly what I want to explore and dive into."

Liz McCosh, a fourth-year student in the MFJS department, also reflected on how the course bridges to her future career. "As a senior who will be graduating in about three months, working with an actual client and getting hands-on experience in the workforce has not only given me the opportunity to apply first-hand what I have been learning in the classroom, but has also given me confidence that I'll be successful next year when I'm working full-time," she said.

"There's no better way to learn than hands-on experience," DU senior Tim Carpenter agreed. "By working with a real client, this is a perfect opportunity to see what job responsibilities we would and would not like to do post-graduation, as well as creating materials and experiences to add to our resume."

Giving students the opportunity to see the project through from start to finish allowed them to experience the real world of strategic communications and to learn what aspects of the field they enjoyed so that they could focus their job search moving forward. By taking students outside the boundaries of traditional classroom learning, the Department of Media, Film & Journalism Studies helps to smooth the transition from college to the real world, giving students a taste of reality - and a dose of the fine arts.

About the Strategic Communication Seminar

This course is the capstone for the strategic communication major in the University of Denver's Department of Media, Film & Journalism Studies. The course focuses on a special topic in strategic communication and allows students to apply what they have learned throughout their degree to problem-solve for a not for profit organization. Students work together in teams to formulate a campaign specific to their client's public relations needs. This winter's course was taught by Associate Professor Erika Polson.