Just weeks before walking across the stage at commencement, Lia Brouillard, a senior marketing communication major, said she values the knowledge she’s gained from studying at Emerson. She said, however, that her program does have its shortcomings.
Brouillard said she thinks the college’s marketing classes should be more challenging. She said her experience has focused on big ideas and lacks specific skill-building classes like coding, portfolio building, graphic design, and layout.
“I have friends that study advertising at [Boston University],” Brouillard said. “They’re held to higher standards and expected to have skills we don’t even offer classes in.”
Although she said she has had a positive and demonstrative experience studying marketing, Brouillard said the curriculum tends to reiterate general concepts.
The marketing communication program has two undergraduate courses that are explicitly advertising courses, as most of the courses fall under communication or business and entrepreneurship, based on the course listings.
“I feel like Emerson focuses very much on concept level rather than execution,” Brouillard said. “It would be more beneficial if we focused on applicable real world skills.”
Brenda Wrigley, chair of the department, said she recognizes the need for courses that teach technical skills. As a result of this, she said a new faculty member was hired to teach data analytics courses starting in fall 2016. Wrigley said she could not disclose the professor’s name, as their current institution is unaware that the person plans on leaving.
Even with the department’s blind spots identified, organizing and employing faculty to teach skill courses has proven difficult. According to Wrigley, finding the right classes that spark enough student interest, as well as finding qualified individuals to teach them, can be a challenge.
“Scheduling is a balancing act,” Wrigley said. “We want to offer more courses but there are limitations and a finite number of class times. I do the best I can to advocate for what we want.”
Emily Maevut, a senior marketing communication major, said she wishes she had more leeway in choosing what she wanted to do for her capstone. During that course, students are given real clients and broken up into teams to create a marketing plan, according to Maevut.
Compared to other programs with more flexibility, Maevut said, her mastery class repeated concepts and wasn’t very relevant to her area of interest of entrepreneurship and working in start-ups.
“It’s just such a small segment of what marketing really is,” Maevut said. “I think that you should be allowed to go in a different direction for your final project.”
Shekinah-Glory Beepat, senior marketing communication major, said the capstone should give students a chance to explore the area outside of advertising and tailor to personal interests. Part of the problem is that students register for this course with no knowledge of the professor or client, Beepat said.
“I think this needs to be addressed on a teacher-by-teacher basis by saying that there’s more than just advertising in marketing,” Beepat said. “That’s what they’ve taught us over the last few years, so let our capstone be more than just advertising.”
Having taught capstone courses in the past, Wrigley said that the process of selecting the prospective clients is complicated, as they are thoroughly interviewed to ensure that the partnership is a valuable experience for students.
Whether their desired industry is entertainment or business, Wrigley said, all students can benefit from their capstone assignment. Working with a variety of different clients and people makes students more marketable than if they just focus in one area, she said.
“Keep an open mind, you just never know when an experience you have can turn into something useful later on,” Wrigley said. “That’s the way I approach it.”
Wrigley said she has an open-door policy and is willing to listen to any comments, positive or negative.
“Nothing is ever off-limits with bringing things up,” Wrigley said. “Students have a right to voice their opinion, so I hope they come in.”
Beepat said the problems in the marketing communication department can be addressed by listening to students and having them critique a little more. The responsibility does not all fall on faculty, she said.
“I know that there are certain situations where students have a lot of complaints but aren't talking to marketing [communication] department heads about it, so the department heads have no idea,” Beepat said. “Unless you’ve actually been speaking, you can’t expect to be heard.”