Stepping Out and Stepping Up

May 13, 2019

Industry Immersion Develops Professional Confidence in Undergraduate Students

Anxious. Nervous. Excited. This is how Emma Adcock of Nashville felt two years ago when her parents dropped
her off at the airport, bound for a Washington, D.C. Industry Immersion trip. Months before, she had been so nervous that she backed out of an interview entirely, removing herself from consideration for a similar trip to New York City. Yet somehow, she mustered up the courage for this trip and followed through. So, with her suitcase in her hand and her heart in her throat, she stepped onto the plane.

“It’s a very daunting thing,” Emma said. “I didn’t feel like I was put together enough to be on the trip. I just didn’t
feel like I was enough.”

Industry Immersion student leadership team president, Emma Adcock (left),works with Ellora Lalla (right) to build a trip itinerary.

As it has been for hundreds of C&IS students, stepping onto that plane would launch a pivotal transition for Emma to develop professional confidence and build essential, personal skills to help her excel in an industry setting. The Industry Immersion program at C&IS is a professional development opportunity for University of Alabama students to travel to leading job markets, explore various industry settings and engage with experienced alumni and industry professionals.

The program places motivated undergraduates in the middle of board rooms in the heart of some of the country’s most dynamic cities, swapping business cards with its top talent. Trips include tours of agencies and organizations, coaching in professional development and Q&A time with industry tycoons. Like Emma, not every student is ready to step right into a career in that environment—few students are. So, the Industry Immersion student leadership team prepares them by developing itineraries that introduce participants
to company cultures, city life and a variety of roles.

“Once students are accepted for a trip, we work with them to make sure that they’re ready,” said Ellora Lalla, the director of professional development on the Industry Immersion student leadership team. “We coach them on how to act in professional settings, ask strategic questions, tailor their resumes, professionalize their social media and craft their elevator pitches.”

The result? Students march into well-known, global companies such as Disney, Ketchum, Edelman, Google and Time, Inc., with poise and determination. By the trip’s end, students have a pile of business cards, traction for their career and a supercharged mission upon returning to campus. Some students have even landed jobs and internships on the spot.

“After Industry Immersion trips, every student has a story,” said Dr. Litsa Rivers, Director of Experiential Learning and Outreach at C&IS. “The stories aren’t all the same, but they all include an element of self-discovery, either defining exactly what they want their career to be or learning that they should pursue a different path. Both are equally valuable.”

Industry Immersion participants visit with C&IS alumni such as Graham Flanagan
at Business Insider and Mary Buzbee at Lewis Communications.

These trips serve to complement the educational process. Students who are actively learning about the full spectrum of communication in their courses are transported beyond the university setting to witness the environment firsthand. The textbook skills and fundamentals take on a new and deeper meaning as they see it, feel it, reflect on it and experience it with their peers.

As a C&IS Board of Visitors member and longtime advocate and host of Industry Immersion, Lindsay Garrison believes in the value of this transformative student experience. As proof of her dedication, Garrison spearheaded a Board of Visitors endowment of $100,000 to help create more opportunities for all C&IS students to participate through scholarships.

Industry Immersion trip participants network with leading professionalsat Ketchum, a top public relations firm in New York City.

“The benefits of Industry Immersion go well beyond networking. They help students truly envision their careers
in the rapidly evolving field of communication,” said Garrison, senior vice president at Edelman. “Meeting with alumni in their work environment gives students invaluable context to what they’re learning in the classroom.”

For each trip, the eight members of the Industry Immersion student leadership team craft a unique experience for the participants, including a thorough orientation to the city and a detailed outline of the companies they visit. The participants who engage in the meetings, strive to make connections and follow up with them after the program tend to see opportunities open up in their search for internships and jobs. At the very least, their confidence and competence equip them to pursue those opportunities on their own.

Two years after that first plane ride, Emma now serves as the current president of the Industry Immersion student leadership team. She admits she still gets butterflies in her stomach as she steps into those high-profile meetings with industry superstars. But overall, her experience with Industry Immersion has been transformative.

“I’ve gained so much from being involved in Industry Immersion,” Emma said. “I have a newfound confidence going into meetings, my resume and elevator pitch are stronger, and I feel very capable asking critical questions
and interacting with professionals.”

It’s easy to see Industry Immersion participants walking the halls at some of the nation’s most impressive companies and imagine what’s next. Years from now, students like Emma Adcock will welcome a new generation of University of Alabama up-and-comers into their board rooms and be a part of the process that introduces these students to the kind of careers their future holds.