Student-staffed AMP reaching past the Parkland campus

Sarah Powers

Staff Writer

Photo by Sarah Powers | The Prospectus Parkland graphic design student and AMP member Kate Ross with promotional material she helped design.

Photo by Sarah Powers | The Prospectus
Parkland graphic design student and AMP member Kate Ross with promotional material she helped design.

It was a busy school year for the students of Applied Media Promotions (AMP), the student-staffed full service strategic communications firm operated by the Parkland Fine and Applied Arts department.

But their hard work paid off.

AMP’s dedication in providing media and design strategies for two community non-profit organizations, plus a handful of Parkland’s clubs and student groups this past year, has been so successful that it earned them a nomination from Parkland VP of Institutional Advancement, Seamus Reilly, for the Champaign County Innovation in Engagement Award from Innovation Celebration. They proudly took home that award this past March.

Cindy Blair, AMP coordinator, explains the mission of AMP. “We are not a club, but more of an initiative where students are the staff. We’re trying to simulate as much as possible an actual job, so [students] know what to expect once they leave here and move to the work force.”

This past spring semester the students of AMP worked with local non-profit organization Wesley Food Pantry, who recently opened a second location on campus at Parkland. “We had two different logos, even though we are run by the same organization,” said Katalyna Thomas, Director of the Wesley Food Pantry, “so I thought this would be a great opportunity to combine our brands.”

Projects like these are the ones that Blair considers fulfilling to AMP’s mission and provides students with the greatest overall experience. “The best projects for us are those that are all-encompassing, that require a complete strategy package,” says Blair.

This strategy package includes everything from logos and print materials to communication strategies and event planning. Once every aspect of their strategy is completed to the client’s needs, the AMP designers hand off their work free of charge, gratified enough by the valuable first-hand experience gained along the way.

Current Parkland graphic design student and AMP member, Katie Ross, said, “One of the main benefits isn’t just the skills you build, but the connections that you gain networking in a professional environment.”

With a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Illinois, Ross described her post-graduation resume as having a “gaping hole” without the skills learned from undergraduate internship opportunities. “I’m definitely more on the lookout for those now in my second educational endeavor,” she says.

Students have an opportunity to work for scholarship, hourly wage, or internship credit, but most just volunteer their time, satisfied with the opportunity to boost resumes and build design portfolios.

AMP receives interest from students of all studies, primarily from the Communications or Graphic Design programs, but also with an increasing interest from the Computer Science and Information Technology department because of a growing demand for website development and design in the job market.

“They will find a place for anyone in any major that has an interest in AMP’s mission,“ Katie Ross comments on her hesitation to apply without any experience and only one semester of graphic design classes. “Cindy [Blair] and Kendra [McClure] have such a great attitude about everyone. They’re just as much interested in what they can do for you as what you can do for AMP.”

As AMP’s faculty director, Kendra McClure thinks fostering a professional and creative workplace that also makes students feel safe and supported is one of the most important aspects of the group. “This is an important link between the classroom and the student’s next step, whether it be a four-year university or a career,” says McClure.

Student Katie Ross agrees. “It’s a safe place; it’s a familiar environment. You’re at Parkland, you’re with a teacher, you’re working with real clients, but at the same time someone is there holding your hand, not condescendingly, but in a way that makes you confident to take risks,” she says.