Southeast Student Develops Voice in Digital Marketing



Southeast Missouri State University student Nick Quargnenti, of St. Charles, Missouri, spent his summer interning with Emmaus Homes, a nonprofit organization that provides support to adults with developmental disabilities in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

His main role was to assist the organization’s marketing manager.

“Each day, I would collaborate with the development team, the team responsible for all external communications,” Quargnenti said. “I really enjoyed the creative work. Being able to collect a story, create the content, and then seeing it on the Facebook page later that evening was awesome. I also really enjoyed managing the social media pages.”

Quargnenti, an advertising major, learned about the internship while working on a project for the MC318 “Advertising Digital Applications” course during the Spring 2017 semester.

“In the course, we explore both the theory and practice of creating and executing advertising objectives and strategies in digital and social media for a company or an organization,” said Dr. Karie Hollerbach, professor of mass media. “The students study current best practices for developing digital advertising and then apply those concepts and practices for an actual client.”

Steven Amrhein, an employment branding specialist with Emmaus House and a 2014 graduate of Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in mass communication, advertising option, had a class experience similar to Quargnenti’s. He helped develop and pitch an ad campaign to the Southeast Bookstore.

“It was the perfect free-for-all using all the concepts and skills we mastered over our four years in the advertising program,” Amrhein said. “Working with a client and connecting with them only a few times is how the real-world works. Not only did I learn things you can’t learn in a textbook, it gave me some of my first pieces to include in a portfolio.”

Amrhein wanted to replicate the experience that he had for current advertising students and approached Hollerbach about Emmaus House serving as a class client.

“Steven shared with me that he learned many valuable skills such as project development and management, working with a team, meeting consecutive deadlines and the practical application of his coursework from his class experience,” Hollerbach said. “I think Nick learned many of these same skills but in an application solely devoted to how planned social media executions can be leveraged on behalf of a client.”

Three teams of students developed digital marketing campaigns and pitched them to Emmaus Homes. Quargnenti’s team won.

“The course experience helped me improve skills like team collaboration, consumer and competitor research, and project planning concepts,” Quargnenti said. “I learned what to expect in the real world and what questions to ask to determine approaches and goals. I also learned the importance of time management with project deadlines.”

Emmaus House began developing the internship while working with Hollerbach’s students, and Amrhein notified her when the position was posted. Almost 20 candidates, including Quargnenti, applied during the first weekend.

They were highly impressed with Quargnenti’s application and interview, Amhrein said. When the Emmaus team met with the class to judge their pitches, Quargnenti led his group in with a handshake. That was the moment when the team knew they had made the right decision for the internship.

The internship allowed him to gain more experience with digital marketing, Quargnenti said.

“I learned about brand consistency, several programs including Adobe Creative Suite and best practices for maximizing reach with social media,” he said. “I also learned about creative collaboration, the nonprofit industry and how to work with adults with developmental disabilities.”

Emmaus has never had a digital marketing intern or any kind of marketing intern, but Quargnenti was a vital asset to the team, said Amrhein.

“It’s a unique role where he wasn’t advertising a product, but instead he helped advertise our culture,” he said. “He created content, matched strategy and helped us find our voice in the digital space. He shows initiative through the roof, and is going to go far in his career.”

Providing opportunities for students to work with a real client is tremendously beneficial for their education and career, said Hollerbach.

“Having taught for over 20 years now, I have had the good fortune of getting to work with former students to benefit current students but usually in individual endeavors,” she said. “The project we did for Steven and Emmaus is the first time I have worked with an alum to provide an opportunity that paid great experiential learning dividends to an entire class. I would absolutely do it again.”

Amrhein agreed, adding “My biggest goal for the project was to expose students to a different idea of advertising. Hopefully it jumpstarted the idea for them of what in-house advertising could look like.”

Quargnenti, who will graduate this December, is considering pursuing a graduate degree but is keeping his options open.

“This experience has expanded my knowledge about the advertising and marketing industry and helped prepare me for my future in this field,” he said.

Photo Caption: Southeast student Nick Quargnenti (front row, second from left) with his colleagues from Emmaus Homes, where he worked as their first digital marketing intern last summer.