Real-world marketing experience
Graduate students in the Brand and Media Strategy programme are invited to test out their skills by working on marketing programmes for ETSU. Students in the graduate level BucDigital capstone project are placed in agency-style groups that balance each student’s particular strengths and interests. One team member might be a strong copywriter, while another specialises in deep-dive analytics. Students work together to develop a marketing strategy, build and test their programme, measure KPIs and achieve the goals set out by their clients and stakeholders at ETSU.
Some students may work on increasing student recruitment for different ETSU programmes, including the Pre-Med programme, the Brand and Media Strategy programme and the unique Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies programme. Other students work on increasing interest and participation in ETSU’s Creative Arts scholarship.
The Department of Media and Communication was the first to undergo a digital transformation with the migration to Adobe Experience Manager. Other departments quickly requested to follow that lead. Students from the graduate Brand and Media Strategy programme worked with Adobe partner R2Integrated on the various steps to develop the new higher education experience, including business goals discovery, user research, development of personas and user pathways, content strategy and gap analysis, design, site build and launch.
Students love the opportunity to work on ETSU marketing projects. Seeing how their campaigns affect real audiences—through increased applications, campus visits or recruitment numbers—inspires students to continue expanding their skills. It also gives students measurable results that they can show to potential employers.
“Students are attracted to our experiential learning approach, demonstrated by the growth in the graduate programme over the past two years,” says Melanie B. Richards, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and BucDigital Faculty Leader at ETSU. “At both undergraduate and graduate levels, we incorporate the same digital marketing experiences students will have post-graduation through our experiential learning process, the Applied Media and Marketing Education Norm. This gives students the opportunity to learn how to approach and overcome potential challenges they may encounter in the real world on projects while still in the learning environment of the university. The approach benefits ETSU, as the university can supplement its marketing resources for a much lower cost compared to hiring an outside marketing agency.”
“So many companies are working with Adobe Experience Cloud, but few programmes bring our level of experiential education,” says Dr Marshall. “We’re creating fantastic opportunities that attract hiring companies and new students alike because the work is real.”
ETSU’s approach is funded in a unique, entrepreneurial way as well. Software funding is based on student recruitment for the Department of Media and Communication. In other words, marketing software typically budgeted from a university unit is being funded by student tuition dollars from a single academic programme.
ETSU started with 24 students in its Brand and Media Strategy graduate programme. Just one year later, that number has risen to more than 75 students and undergraduate numbers are climbing as well. “I think all our programmes are seeing strong growth for two main reasons,” says Dr Marshall. “The first is how we emphasise professional, real-world experiences and connections. The other is the strength of the Adobe brand. Students want to get a leg up in the digital marketing industry and Adobe is a leader. With active learning and our Adobe partnership, our approach creates student, organisational and industry ROI like no other programme in the world.”