Students gain real-world marketing experience
At Skidmore, a business course can transform into a real-world business partnership with a Fortune 500 company.
In addition to analyzing commercials, exploring idea development, learning the fundamentals of producing a TV spot and receiving equipment and software training, students in professor Guy Mastrion’s Commercial Production course gained experience working with a global digital industrial corporation and became better prepared for professional life after graduation.
The course’s corporate client, GE Global Research — the innovation engine of General Electric — also gained valuable insights into how the world sees its work and how to effectively communicate to different audiences.
GE Global Research, located in Niskayuna, about 25 miles from the Skidmore campus, has been around for more than a century, originating and developing new ideas and delivering products spanning the aviation, power, transportation and health care sectors.
For the collaboration, the students were tasked with conceptualizing and executing a 30-second advertising spot promoting GE research.
The students split up into groups and chose their own production company names. They were briefed by GE personnel and consulted a creative briefing document prepared by Mastrion in collaboration with GE. Students then conceived their ideas, created storyboards, filmed on the campuses of Skidmore and GE, and edited their commercials. They had access to GE innovations labs and personnel as their individual teams filmed the various scenes required to tell their stories.
“What a great educational opportunity for the class to work on a project that furthers their skills in commercial production. And for us, it provides a different set of eyes and a different lens on the research lab to help tell the great stories of our technology, of our campus, to the world,” said Todd Alhart, media relations and chief technology storyteller at GE Research.
The students also gained the type of hands-on experience often reserved for an internship. The project gave them a taste of a professional work environment and a real business experience to add to their resume.
“I think it really forces you to think about business in very fundamental ways,” said Lili Delotsang ’19. “As a student, I think it gets pretty easy to kind of just go through the motions, just do school, get a good grade. But when you work with a company, it really forces you to think about producing work that you'd want to be producing for your employer or your potential employer.”
Mastrion, the F. William Harder Chair in Business Administration, introduced the Commercial Production course in spring 2018. In addition to GE, his students have worked with Garnet River, an IT professional services firm based in Saratoga Springs, and Samadhi, an addiction recovery program near Woodstock, New York.
“Business is about ideas; brands are ideas,” said Mastrion. “It’s about solving problems. If you’re not solving a problem for someone, you don’t have much of a business. The Commercial production course teaches students how to tell the brand idea in the context of the problem it solves.”
A comprehensive liberal arts education also lays a strong foundation for a career in business, he said.
“Liberal arts is a great preparation for life after college,” said Mastrion. “You absolutely, absolutely need specialists. But we also need diversity of thinking and the flexibility of mind to collaborate with the specialists to come up with new ideas, to think out of the box and I think that's really the value in a liberal arts education.”