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Corporate Communication Experience Helps Students Launch Their Careers

Corporate Communication Experience Helps Students Launch Their Careers

Ripley Smith’s interim 2018 Corporate Communication class visited the U.S. Bank headquarters, where they had the opportunity to hear from Bethel alum Dana Ripley ’92, chief communications officer for U.S. Bank. (Photo Credit: Photo provided by Ripley Smith)

At the top of the U.S. Bank Plaza in downtown Minneapolis, students in Professor of Media Communication Ripley Smith’s class shuffle into an executive boardroom overlooking Target Field. “It ups the level of student professionalism when you put them in those environments,” Smith says. “They go, ‘Oh, this is what it means to operate at this level.’”

Imparting such perspective is a principal mission of Smith’s class, Corporate Communication, which is held during Bethel’s January interim (J-term). By taking the class in a condensed format, students gain more focused, hands-on experience and have the flexibility to engage in numerous real-world interactions with professionals in the field of communication—including the chief communications officer for U.S. Bank, Dana Ripley ’92.

Smith’s 2018 class met with Ripley as part of their lesson on investor relations and social corporate responsibility. Throughout the semester, students made on-site visits to five different companies that offered unique insight into different specialty areas of corporate communication and met with professionals whose job titles ranged from director of marketing to communications coordinator. “The reason I like to take them to the sites is because we often meet more than one person, and they can see the differentiation [between roles] and the need for specialization within the [field],” Smith says. The site visits also correlate to company-specific deliverables—giving students practice writing press releases, advertorials, backgrounders, and features.

For organizational communication major Godfrey Mpetey ’18, these learning experiences were the catalyst for receiving a job offer a year before graduation. Prior to taking Corporate Communication last January, Mpetey secured a summer 2017 internship at U.S. Bank. Lessons learned during the class helped him prepare by giving him more exposure to public relations, writing press releases, networking, and professional conduct. The class also gave him an important introduction to Ripley, who was ultimately the key player in determining his future at U.S. Bank.

“I didn’t expect to be going into my senior year with a job lined up,” Mpetey says. “I think that my manager and a lot of people within the corporate communications department at U.S. Bank helped me…[I didn’t do] just busy work. It was real, applicable work.” As the marketing communications, brand, and customer experience intern in strategy and corporate affairs, Mpetey worked with clients, made media connections, and reviewed and optimized social media strategies. He also had the opportunity to connect with and learn from a variety of professionals at U.S. Bank, including Ripley. “It was surreal just being able to sit down with him,” Mpetey says. “I got a lot of information from him.”

The interaction was mutually positive. On one of his last days as an intern, Mpetey received a call informing him that Ripley had approved the creation of a new role, which U.S. Bank offered to Mpetey a full year in advance—giving him enough time to complete his studies at Bethel. Mpetey will begin his role as communications representative with corporate payment systems at U.S. Bank in July 2018, executing projects similar to those he did as an intern. “I think [human resources] talked a lot to my manager and noted the things that I did this summer, and thought, ‘Maybe we can apply this in a job role,’” Mpetey explains. “So, it’s kind of fun because it’s a new role. It’s going to be a lot of work for me, but at the same time I’m going be able to shape this role.”

This year’s Corporate Communication class heard from Ripley directly about Mpetey’s success—an important lesson in hard work, determination, professionalism, and making connections. “You can say that in a class, but when you’re sitting in an executive boardroom and you’ve got a [leader like Ripley] telling you that, the students listen,” Smith says. “What a great perspective.”

At the end of interim, students in Smith’s class had the opportunity to put all of the lessons they’d learned from Ripley and others—on things like leadership, communication, and crisis management—to the test by participating in a simulation where they acted on behalf of a mock company to create a crisis communication plan addressing external concerns. While Smith describes this final project as a fun, penultimate experience of the class, Mpetey says some of his most important takeaways related to softer skills and the general value of having an immersive experience. Reflecting on his experiences, Mpetey’s number one piece of advice to classmates is to be themselves in all situations. “If you’re a strong, determined, focused person, you’re going to be able to translate that into your work,” he says. “And I think that relates to a lot of what I learned here at Bethel as well, which is just to be who you are.”