One of the best-kept secrets at Georgian Court University (GCU) is a secret no longer. Students in the School of Business and Digital Media (SBDM) have been engaged in intriguing coursework and completing remarkable internships for quite some time, but mostly, their accomplishments were not well known. That’s all changed with the first SBDM Student Showcase.
“As dean, I want to bring more opportunities to recognize our students’ hard work. All of our students do internships, and all of them do really great projects as part of coursework, but we hadn’t been talking about them outside of class,” said Jennifer J. Edmonds, Ph.D., SBDM dean and professor of business. While such opportunities exist at the broader GCU level, she believed SBDM’s unique intertwining of business and digital media curriculum warranted its own forum. To organize the program, Dean Edmonds turned to Ellen M. Bernhard, Ph.D., assistant professor of digital communication, who collaborated with Theodora N. Sergiou, SBDM internship and student development coordinator, to create something special.
“It’s so important to showcase student work—they put a lot of time and effort into their courses and internships at GCU, and many times, that work is only seen by their professor,” said Dr. Bernhard. “They are completing internships and coursework using industry-specific technology and software as they gain skills that are applicable at GCU and beyond.”
Three Minutes, Three Slides, and Friendly Competition
The first SBDM Student Showcase on December 7 featured 10 presentations involving 16 students in two categories—coursework and internships—with a dash of competition and a fast pace to pump up the energy. The students had three minutes to present and could use three PowerPoint slides to help illustrate their project or internship. The audience included SBDM students and faculty, the latter of whom judged entries and chose the winners. Presentations on internships included places such as the ALDI supermarket chain; SETS Built, a hybrid training gym; and GCU Athletics. Coursework discussions included several marketing plans and investment analysis of a Fortune 100 company, among others.
While all presentations were informative and entertaining, two rose to the top. Alycia Bardon ’22, a digital communication major from Howell, New Jersey, won first place in the coursework category for her research “Lil Miquela and Generation Z: Why Brands are Choosing a Virtual Influencer to Target a Generation.” Jessica Imperiale ’23, a graphic design and multimedia major, took first place in the internship category for presentation of her work at Lemon Seed Studios. Both winners received gift cards.
Alycia’s presentation originated from a Digital Communication Theory and Research class in Spring 2021. “I had just watched a video on virtual influencers when Dr. Bernhard gave the research assignment,” she said. “My topic—why brands want to work with virtual influencers like Lil Miquela, who has more than 3.1 million followers on Instagram, to reach a generation raised online—clicked.” She continued working on the research last fall. When given the opportunity to present her work in the SBDM Showcase, Alycia knew her biggest challenge would be whittling down a 20-page paper to a concise presentation that retained its context and was understandable for a diverse audience.
“It took me about three to five hours to get the presentation where I wanted it. My mom was my ‘test’ audience, and she gave some good feedback,” said Alycia. On showcase day, while Alycia’s trust in knowing her research, seeing familiar faces in the room and confidence built partly from her college experience eased her jitters. “Georgian Court prepares you for anything, any time.” So why are brands drawn to Lil Miquela? “As a CGI person, Lil Miquela can be whatever the brand wants her to be. She can make zero mistakes,” said Alycia.
Internship in Game Design
Jessica’s interests revolve around art and game design. With “a little bit of teacher in me, too,” her career goal is to open an art school that goes beyond the usual and also offers graphic design, game design, 3D animation, and the like. On her own, Jessica, a Jackson, New Jersey, resident, pursued an internship with Lemon Seed Studios, an online global company developing its first video game, Blue Oak Bridge. “I followed Lemon Seed Studios on Instagram for about a year and decided to reach out to them about an internship. I was given the opportunity to intern as a 2D artist and work with a bunch of amazing people from around the world,” she said.
Jessica also found it challenging to condense her internship into three slides. “There was so much more I wanted to say, but in the end, I decided to let my art speak for itself,” she said. The first slide described the company; the second, her conceptual work, such as characters she developed, inventory icons, and environmental props; and last, her designs that made the final version of Blue Oak Bridge. While Jessica is now glad she participated in the SBDM Showcase, it might have been a no-go. “I struggle with anxiety every day, but ultimately, I decided to participate. At the showcase, I had my aromatherapy, mindfulness, and the sense of comfort from two professors: Jinsook Kim, Ph.D., my advisor, who was cheering me on, and Brian McSherry, J.D., who is not just my professor, but a new friend,” she said.
The first SBDM Student Showcase has set a high bar for others to follow. “The showcase allowed for students to highlight their work and skills in a welcoming environment not only with their professors, but with their peers and others within the SBDM community,” said Dr. Bernhard. “It was a great way for students to network with others and learn about the topics and concepts that are covered in many of the courses offered at GCU. The quick pace of the event kept everyone’s attention, and with the diverse range of content presented, those in the audience were able to learn something new from each student.”
Story contributed by freelance writer Sheila Noonan.