Saturday, February 14, 2009

Save the Last Dance For Me

Today I'm unbelievably happy to say that last night, my fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and our sister sorority, Sigma Alpha Iota celebrated our first conjoined spring formal, "Music From the Heart."

I'm also proud to say that by this event being such a phenomenal success, I've broken through my superstition barrier and fear of Friday the 13th.

That is not to say it was an easy success. As the coordinator for the formal, the entire event took a personal 10 months worth of creation, constant planning, time, gas and stress. Thankfully with a lot of support, help and imagination from other enthusiastic individuals, the bar was raised even further.

The formal itself started as an idea from another friend's formal that she had invited me to last April at Rhodes College in Memphis Tenn. After constant research for adequete venues in Oxford to host the formal at and two weeks worth of writing a proposal, I later passed the project before the fraternity in October. From there it was all about the planning. From the big stuff to even the smallest details.

Because the formal was within the beginning weeks of spring semester and most of us were gone for the full two months of winter break, I created a private facebook group to communicate ideas for the formal between members. The focus of the group was on issues concerning theme, dj, ticket sales and food. Using Facebook was very beneficial in the process. As soon as the semester began, I started holding Formal committee meetings to talk about and finalized issues and start organizing the details.

As the time came for selling tickets, I brought the focus on marketing strategy to include creating posters, making general announcements to the bands and choirs in the music department, and the creation of an event on facebook. All those factors helped to promote the event effectively enough that ticket sales covered most of our expenses.

The location for the formal was the Oxford Conference Center which provided a regal sense of environment to guests. When it came time for decorations and food, SAI took the bill on decorating and Sinfonia, the cost of food. Of course that pretty much meant I was the caterer for the event as well as coordinator. Turns out, I can do a much better job creating a full buffet with much less money in comparison to actual caters. Go me!
In the end the event was very successful and there were many outstanding reviews about the formal the next day on Facebook. Considering many PR jobs involve a considerable amount of event planning, the experience has been a positive and justifiable one for me.
Above photo: The poster for the formal designed by me. The logo for the event was a design by Amanda Frazier.
Below photo: The Oxford Conference Center in Oxford, MS.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Selling the J-Dept t-shirt

I should probably start off with the fact that as of this past month I am the new President of the Society of Professional Journalists Ole Miss chapter. Now that I've taken this position, it is my personal mission statement to raise SPJ out of the slump it fell into last semester and make the organization stronger that it was before that.

This also means that after designing and preparing, SPJ finally started its sales drive for the Official Journalism t-shirts yesterday. As I figured, we ended up using the third design from the "Designing the J-Dept t-shirt" entry.

SPJ started the drive with a bang. Throughout the day on Monday I came and briefly spoke about the shirts to the different classes that met in Farley Hall. I also hung various posters, marketing the shirts throughout every classroom and every bulletin board in the building. The posters displayed here are a part of the first set of posters I designed labeled "the diversity posters." The second set I designed were in accordance to Valentine's day coming later this week.

On the posters are the major slogan for the campaign "Show Your Pride!" as well as the ticket prices and places to purchase the t-shirts. With strong volunteering from Grafton Pritchartt (Vice-President) and Katrina Baker (Secretary), SPJ managed to handle covering most of the major classes to our booth in the main lobby of Farley.

The funniest part of the whole process of designing and producing the posters for the t-shirts was while I was doing the photo shoot of students modeling the shirts. The selection was randomly drawn from one of Dr. Wickham's (SPJ's advisor) ethics classes. What I did not realize until after printing the posters was that one of the four students I had chosen was the Ole Miss football team's wide receiver, Dexter McCluster.

Of course as the week has moved along I have come to realize that I made one fatal flaw in the process of deciding how many t-shirts to produce. Initially we ordered 100 total with 34 smalls, 33 mediums and 33 larges. I figured "hey there are so many smaller sized girls in the Journalism Department, if I'm gonna order one extra, it might as well be a small." Well, wrong!

A very important key cultural aspect to the majority of the girls in the department on a campus like Ole Miss is "Sorority." And for some strange, constantly mind-boggling reason, sorority chicks love wearing over-bearingly
large t-shirts with sophie shorts that make it look like they are not wearing any pants at all. The lesson here is to underestand your demographics. In the end, I probably should have ordered 44 larges and 23 smalls. It isn't a serious matter and it will not have a crushing affect on sales profits. Revenue will have to be in the long-run as apposed to my original short-run plan for total sales, but it evens out. I still feel bad for the smalls though.

The smalls will suffer.

A New Hope: Rise of the Millennials

Update : This article recently ran in the Daily Mississippian, the student newspaper of the University of Mississippi. It is currently on file with the DMonline.
With an 18 hours-a-week class schedule and the sometimes 20 hours-a-day work schedule of a residence assistant in Kincannon dormitory, it is understandable that James Buchanan stays busy. But he is also a student in the Croft Institute, as well as a member of the Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, Amnesty International, and the College Democrats at Ole Miss.

After that, the rest of his day is ruled by a computer; checking emails, doing blackboard homework, researching projects and reports using the internet, and of course, the constant need to check his facebook more than four times a day.

Two weeks ago he was accepted for an internship with U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C.. Someday, he hopes he can make a difference in the world of politics and a failing economy.

Though his story is very unique, James is not alone. A lot of his characteristics are similar to other students his age. That defines him as part of a rising generation now known as “the Millennials.”

Also known as the Net Generation, Generation Y, Echo Boomers, and iGeneration, the Millennials consist primarily of the offspring of the Generation Jones and Baby Boomers. The Millennial timeline of birth ranges between the years 1982 to 2000. Their numbers far outrange that of their Baby Boomer parents, numbering somewhere between 80 million and 95 million.

Ross Haenfler, a University of Mississippi assistant professor of sociology and specialist in youth subcultures, believes the most prominent characteristic of the Millennial generation is how technologically savvy they are. He mostly links that aspect to being plugged in their entire lives.

Many Millennials spend their day either checking facebook, MySpace or twitter feeds. Others go to online forums and video sites like YouTube. When they are not in front of a computer, Millennials either have a cell phone in their hands texting or an MP3 in their ears. Sometimes it is both.

“I think its changing their consciousness. Their ability to multi task is pretty amazing but so is their lack of attention,” Haenfler says, “Technology is almost a compulsion; it’s difficult for students to sit still and not be plugged in.”

According to the authors who wrote the book Millennials Rising, William Strauss and Neil Howe, one of the Millennial generation’s other key strengths is that they are team players. Millennials play in groups and study in groups.

Because of this the Millennials are also the least race-conscious generation in American history. Millennial values encourage unity in dress and speech and ideals, far more than fears regarding diversity issues.

Another aspect Haenfler cites for this generation is that it extends youth well into the 20’s, with fewer individuals wanting to be married, own a family, or a home by their mid 20’s.

“For them it’s no rush, especially when they think they could live into their mid-80s,” Haenfler says.

A number of studies, including new ones by the Center for American Progress in Washington and by Demos, a progressive think tank in New York, have shown that Americans in this age group face a variety of challenges that are tougher than those faced by young adults over the past few decades. Among the challenges are worsening job prospects, lower rates of health insurance coverage and higher levels of debt.

In Strauss’ and Howe’s book The Fourth Turning, they predicted that some event between 2005 and 2010 will signal the beginning of about two decades of chronic fear and struggle. The effects of this event will have led to a point where compromise is no longer seen as a virtue. The Millennial generation will have no choice but to rise to the challenges.

The authors make much of the generational structure of the Star Wars characters when it comes to this crisis. The Baby Boomers have become old Obi Wan Kenobi as a Prophet, who defines the confrontation. Han Solo, like Generation X, belongs to a "Nomad" generation that is likely to get most of the dirty work and little of the praise. Luke Skywalker is a Hero, obviously, and he is what the Millennials are to become. The shadow of Luke Skywalker, however, is his own father, Darth Vader. In the prequel to the trilogy, "The Phantom Menace," audiences see Darth Vader as a child, still full of possibility, like the little Millennials now.

“For the average person of this generation, it’s going to be harder to achieve the kind of lifestyle their parents got to have,” Haenfler says, “This is the generation that in their lifetime, environmental and economical problems are going to come to a head. So once they are older and in positions of power, they are going to have to tackle these issues.”

But Haenfler remains hopeful for Millennial’s future.

“You hear a lot about this generation’s wanting to change the world for the better so that is where some of them are finding meaning in contrast with the ramped individualism of the 70-80’s,” Haenfler says, “Many of this generation are interested in giving something back and finding fulfillment in that.”

Millennials are increasingly aware of and engaged in volunteer work, community service, and philanthropic activities. About 67 percent of students said helping others who are in difficult situations is an essential or very important objective, according to UCLA's annual survey, "The American Freshman—National Norms for 2006."

The report also found that 35.2 percent of undergrads think it is important to become leaders, and 42 percent believe it's important to influence social values, which is the highest that measure has been since 1993.

Under all of these circumstances is where students like James come in. With a tedious academic career and a very dreary economic future, he and the rest of his generation has come of age to where soon they will have to use every resource they have available to rise to the challenges of a very uncertain future.

Published: March 9, 2009
the Daily Mississippian