After a minor, brief identity crisis and time of wondering what to do with my summer, I decided to
take a marketing internship with C. Grant & Company, a firm in downtown Wheaton that does a variety of work with camps, higher education, and business clients. One of my responsibilities as an intern was creating a proposal for an area client; the proposal is the result of hours upon hours of meetings, research, brainstorming, and strategizing. The internship as a whole confirmed my interest in marketing and advertising, helping to advance my professional development and kickstart my career. Marketing, branding, and advertising all rely heavily on communication principles and a liberal arts mindset; making connections is extremely important and exhibited in virtually any marketing campaign – this project (with client name redacted for privacy reasons) shows that mindset in action.
After a brief period of rest at home, my final fall semester began. For the first time, I truly felt able to take complete advantage of the opportunities available to me academically, socially, and extracurricularly. The investment I made in growing as a person was starting to pay off, and it changed the way I approached class – even with a semester filled completely with general education courses and electives. I took a 400-level sociology elective course, Violence in Minority Communities, just for fun. Being just a quad course, it ended up resulting in two particularly formative projects, the first of which was a case study portfolio of commentary and analysis of violent incidents in minority communities. The goal of this portfolio was to exercise sociological theory and analysis in real-world scenarios, identifying the root causes of violence in a variety of situations, both domestically and internationally. Had the freshman version of myself done this project…well, I don’t even want to know what it would have looked like. This is a thorough, thoughtful analysis of dozens of cases, reflecting an insight into social issues that simply did not exist during my freshman year.
The second major project of the semester, also from this class, is a group proposal for a program to help alleviate violence in minority communities, theoretically directed at a “presidential commission.” Our professor assigned this project to our group just three days before it was due – a surprise assignment not in the syllabus – and was probably not expecting the level of detail we provided, but our group thought we had a good idea and decided to run with it. Interacting with our course readings and class discussions, we created a proposal for a program designed to create opportunity, reduce inequality, and empower racial and economic minorities living in ghettos to actualize their own ideas in a constructive way that will create upward economic mobility for individual communities of people, consequently reducing the propensity and need for violence in their neighborhoods. It is not perfect, as it was done relatively quickly due to the unique timetable on which we worked, but it demonstrates creativity and imagination in cross-applying sociology, economics, communication, and business principles.
As the semester progressed and senior year took its shape, things at Phonathon started to change, and it was becoming clear that I needed to reevaluate where my time and energy was being spent. To date, Phonathon had been the most consistent, defining feature of my time at Wheaton. Several factors led me to the strong feeling that I needed to end my formal working relationship with Phonathon, although I do remain good friends with many of my former coworkers. Leaving Phonathon gave me the opportunity to lead in different ways and taste a different side of life at Wheaton, but not before I made the most positive impact in the Phonathon community that I possibly could. I received this email from my former supervisor a few days after my final shift, containing my final calling statistics over the course of my career at Phonathon.
Abbreviation Key: Time = time spent on phone; P = number of pledges; NP = number of no-pledges; Cont = number of contacts; $$ = dollars raised; MG = matching gifts; MG$ = matching gift dollars; Avg$ = average dollar amount per pledge; P% = pledge percentage; CC = number of credit cards; CC% = percentage of gifts on credit card; G% = percentage of conversations that ended with a credit card gift; Up = number of upgraded gifts; Up Poss = number of upgrade possibilities; Up% = upgrade percentage
Taking Phonathon off my plate created space for exploring other activities and job opportunities, including multiple part-time jobs. I even got to take an elective night class – Digital Marketing – without having to worry about scheduling around work. One of our assignments for that class was to create a series of Facebook Ads for a real online invitation business. I experimented with some over-the-top, outlandishly-worded “click bait” ads, theorizing that they would do better than more straightforward, conventional advertisements because of the curiosity generated by their headlines. This one did particularly well – it was clicked on by 7.062% of the people who saw it, actually outperforming one industry standard for Facebook Ads by about 394%:
Senior year has been a good one. It has not come without its challenges, but the growth – or perhaps the manifest growth happening all throughout my time at Wheaton – has been enormous. Perhaps the paper that means the most to me in terms of reflecting my shift from the self-centered, overconfident freshman that entered Wheaton to the maturing, grounded senior exiting this place is my final integrative essay for Christian Thought. It explores the necessity of releasing our perceived autonomy and hanging onto Christ, trusting that He will provide out of His abundance and grace. It is a paper four years in the making, one that reflects a completely different perspective on the church, the gospel, and the very nature of how we communicate with our Creator than I held coming into Wheaton.
My time at Wheaton is close to over. What do I have to show for it, what am I going to do about it, and what is coming next?