The University of Indianapolis prides itself on producing students who are prepared to meet today’s challenges once they leave the University and enter the workforce. While for some schools this is only a slogan, at UIndy, several student-run businesses are working to make it happen.
A creative spark
Dr. Samantha Meigs, associate professor of history, is the director of the Experience Design program. This past year, Experience Design students applied for a Student Engagement Grant from the Indiana Campus Compact in hopes of starting up a business. Thankfully, they got the grant, and Imagination Emporium was born. “The idea is that we collaborate with community partners to design a program that would in some way address some social issue or give that spark of creativity using imagination in lots of different ways,” Meigs said, explaining the focus of Imagination Emporium. One of the big projects that Imagination Emporium did within the community was a partnership with Southeast Community Services after-school program. According to Meigs, SECS was trying to find a way to encourage the students that “school is cool” and asked the Experience Design students for help. The result was a program called An Adventure to Middle Earth, which was designed to be engaging and interactive and featured such activities as an interactive storytelling segment and teaching students in the after-school program how to write their names in Elvish. Meigs says that students in the Experience Design Program need to be well-rounded and that the work with Imagination Emporium gives them the chance to meet their learning goals, in addition to gaining valuable life skills. “This is a chance to work with real-life clients,” said Meigs. “The Experience Design program is really founded on three major skill set areas: design, research, and management. It is an interdisciplinary major and pulls in all of those components.”
Lights, camera, action!
The University Department of Theatre hosts performances throughout the year, such as the annual Dinner Theatre, student-directed productions, and much more. Greyhound Production Services, led by Fritz Bennett, production manager and technical director of theatre is the student-run business that sets up these events and makes sure they run as smoothly as possible. “We’re sort of like an event-production company that services events on campus,” Bennett said. “It depends on what’s needed, so sometimes it can be simple and sometimes it can be complicated; there can be a lot of design and a lot of technology behind it.” This past semester Greyhound Production Services put together the annual Fashion Show. A brainchild of the Student Business Leaders Association, the Fashion Show is a larger-scale production equipped with lights, music, and a full runway. Bennett says that events like these provide the students of technical theatre with essential experience. “The primary goal of GPS is to try and help the students gain more skills and experience before they graduate,” Bennett said. “Students gain multiple skills through this program including time management, people skills, and how to work with others. Our clients are other organizations on campus, so sometimes we work with students and sometimes we work with faculty or staff.”
At the top of their game
Top Dog Communications, the student public relations agency on campus, won top firm in the nation for the second time in three years in October. The award, the Dr. F. H. Teahan Award, was presented at the Public Relations Student Society of America Conference in recognition of their accomplishments and professionalism. Rebecca Deemer, associate professor of communication, is the advisor to Top Dog. She is dedicated to ensuring that her students (and PR professionals-to-be) work to be the best through hard work and application of knowledge. “The students will do a campaign, and what they actually do is strategize and execute an entire plan by the end of the semester,” explained Deemer. One project, with Samaritan Health Group, was to raise awareness about their effort to help people around the world who are going without shoes. What each student will do, once presented with the assignment, is listen to the client’s needs and come up with a strategy and tactics to create the plan for the client. “Public relations, ideally and when practiced correctly, is about maintaining relationships with communication, with really good communication. Our job is to go and maintain relationships on their behalf,” Deemer said.
Preparation began a year ago to launch a student-run business for the design department, and it became official this fall semester. Nelson Wei Tan, assistant professor of visual communication, advises One14 Design Studio, which is operated by graphic design majors. “It’s a class where we’ve got juniors and seniors who play the role of designer, art director, and project manager,” Wei Tan said. The students typically take on four to five projects per semester, which is how long the class lasts. Wei Tan said that they are working to get the class expanded to a year so the students who work there can stay longer and take on assignments from both on-campus groups and nonprofits in the community. Wei Tan said that the students have skills, but that One14 Design gives them a special advantage. “Students get the chance to work with clients and network. This class primarily gives a chance to gain real-world experience outside their curriculum.”
—Allison Gallagher ’14