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Engaging Communities - Supporting Local Ventures

From the Bangor Daily News, May 10, 2008

Hands-on ADvantage

BANGOR, Maine - Many college graduates bemoan the lack of practical, hands-on experience they acquire in liberal arts classrooms, but professor Laura Lindenfeld’s students sing a different tune.

Thanks to a grant from the University of Maine-Bangor Community Outreach Partnership Center at the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, Lindenfeld’s Advertising Campaigns class at UMaine created professional commercials and advertisements for six businesses.

The 20 students worked with the private Bar Harbor dinner club Nostrano, the UM Recreation Center in Orono and four downtown Bangor businesses: J.B. Parker’s Cafe and Catering, Penobscot Theatre, Giacomo’s Groceria and the Bella Luna clothing store.

“This was the most moving class I’ve ever taught. In some ways it was frightening because I had to let go of a lot of control. But I feel like I learned more from the students than they did from me,” Lindenfeld said at a gathering at J.B. Parker’s on Thursday evening. There the students gave final presentations of their work and celebrated with the businesses, UMaine faculty and Bangor city officials.

Beginning in January, the students and business owners met several times to assess each company’s “SWOT,” or strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Katee Stearns, a UMaine senior, worked with Bella Luna. In addition to creating a mock website, glossy print advertisements, a radio script and a movie theater screen advertisement, Stearns spent five hours at a clothing store in the Bangor Mall to analyze the competition.

“I asked shoppers questions and learned a lot about their shopping experience,” Stearns said. “There’s nothing like it [Bella Luna] downtown, so it really adds to the downtown revitalization effort.”

Brendon Westphal, a senior advertising major, said his group helped secure a place for Nostrano smoked salmon on the shelves of Giacomo’s Groceria and The Natural Living Center in Bangor. They also created print and radio ads for Nostrano.

“It was definitely the best hands-on experience that we’ve had in this program in this college,” Westphal said on behalf of his classmates. “I’ve been applying for internships, and 75 percent of my portfolio came from this class.”

One of J.B. Parker’s owners, Brian Ross, said he appreciated being able to give the students feedback on their designs throughout the semester.

“It was a fantastic combination of new ideas,” Ross said. “Their print ads were exceptional and I loved their idea of our cafe being ‘a moment of pause.’ That may be perfect for what we’re looking for.”

Supporting Local Ventures

Penobscot Theatre director Scott Levy praised the students’ efforts to survey his theater’s current and prospective audiences and suggest ways to attract younger crowds with print and radio campaigns.

“I think you’ll see this work around here soon,” Levy said.

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