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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 24, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 31
Students Take On the FBI — As a Marketing Client, That Is

Students check the results of a polygraph test administered by an FBI agent. His visit was part of a project conducted by the Advertising and Promotion class.

By Phil Sneiderman

A squad of FBI agents descended on the Homewood campus last week, unpacked a polygraph and other gear beneath a tent and took aim at a few common misperceptions about the agency.

The visit was aimed at coaxing Johns Hopkins students to consider careers with the FBI, including important but lesser known jobs requiring skills in accounting, computer science and foreign language fluency.

For some students, the gathering outside Levering Hall provided a chance to chat with federal agents, inspect a hazardous materials suit, take a lie detector test and consume some free hamburgers and hot dogs.

But for 27 students, the event marked the culmination of a challenging semester-long marketing project. With a $2,500 budget, members of a class called Advertising and Promotion had to survey student attitudes about the FBI, then create posters, T-shirts and other materials to help alter misperceptions. Finally, the class had to organize, promote and staff last week's four-hour campus event.

"I think they did an outstanding job," said Baltimore-based FBI Special Agent Nathan Tucker, the agency's regional recruiter.

Hopkins was one of seven universities picked to participate in and be funded by the FBI Collegiate Marketing and Recruitment Program, developed in conjunction with Edventure Partners, a firm that matches universities with real-world clients seeking to target the student market. The Advertising and Promotion class is offered through the Whiting School's W. P. Carey Program in Entrepreneurship and Management. Although the program is based in the Engineering School, its courses are open to all full-time students and can count toward Hopkins' increasingly popular business minor.

The class was assigned to prepare a marketing campaign that would stir campus interest in FBI careers and help dispel the notion that the agency seeks only people who want to become gun-toting field agents. Tucker, who reviewed the materials prepared by the class, said the FBI targeted Hopkins because many of its undergraduates possess the strong skills in science, technology and language that are needed for many of the agency's behind-the-scenes jobs.

To call attention to the wide range of work available at the agency, class members created posters and T-shirts bearing the slogan "Not All Agents Wear Black." In one of the posters, a man in a colorful shirt is shown doing business work. Another poster depicts a woman performing lab tests.

"I liked the ideas so much, I think I might borrow some," Tucker said.

Developing the marketing campaign served as an interesting change of pace for some of the students, who are often more accustomed to more abstract class assignments in topics involving science or English literature.

"It's not really connected to my major, but I really enjoyed it," said Samantha Flanzer, a sophomore majoring in public health. "I'm getting great firsthand experience."

Flanzer helped organize focus groups of undergraduates who were asked to talk about their impressions of the FBI. "They viewed it as being secret and dangerous," she said. "Those were some of the impressions we had to break down."

Isabelle Corbett, a senior majoring in international studies, prepared news releases and pitched the marketing project to Baltimore area news outlets. Her efforts led to a feature story in a local business newspaper. "I learned a lot about how to contact media sources effectively so our messages wouldn't go right into a trash can," she said.

The instructor, Leslie Kendrick, who has taught marketing courses at Hopkins for five years, said more students are choosing to augment their traditional studies with business-related classes. "Every year, enrollment and interest in these courses have increased," she said.

Amanda Friant, a junior majoring in English, said her classes with Kendrick have prompted her to plan a career in marketing. Friant worked with Max Dement, a sophomore majoring in economics, on the advertising campaign for the FBI recruitment project. Dement said the lessons will come in handy. "Advertising and marketing are relevant to a lot of careers," he said.


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