Class project benefits corporate communication students from northeast campuses

Matthew giombetti discussing his research project with other students

Matthew Giombetti, a senior Penn State Scranton corporate communication student, discusses his research project, "Improv in College Groups," during the research poster portion of the first ever Corporate Communication Day, held at Penn State Scranton on March 28, which brought corporate communication students from three campuses together for a unique learning and professional development experience.

Credit: Erika Winklebleck

DUNMORE, Pa. — Corporate communication students from two Penn State campuses collaborated on a class project that resulted in the first-ever Corporate Communication Day event for the northeast Penn State campuses.

Sabrina Gray, a senior corporate communication student at Penn State Scranton, and Nichole Rebarchick, of Penn State Hazleton, were the two students charged with organizing the event as a mid-term project for COMM 472: Events Planning, a class taught by Kimberly Flanders, assistant teaching professor of corporate communication at Penn State Scranton. 

After receiving the assignment during the first week of class, back in August, the pair had approximately 10 weeks to plan, organize and execute the event.

They created a daylong event with guest speakers; a special senior research poster presentation; and an opportunity to meet, listen and learn from both fellow corporate communication students at other campuses and regional professionals.

Dubbed Corporate Communication Day 2019, the event included the Scranton, Hazleton, and Schuylkill campuses, but was open to all Penn State students.

“Corporate Communication Day was created to allow corporate communication students to interact with students and faculty from all of the consortium campuses,” said Flanders. “The planning and execution of the event was given to students enrolled in my COMM 472 Events Planning class, which I offer online every spring. COMM 370 Communication Public Relations is the pre-requisite for it, and I offer that online every fall. This served as their mid-term project for the course.”

Attendees heard from guest speakers, including the community relations coordinator from a local nonprofit and local alumni; participated in a “meet and greet” of professors from the selected Penn State campuses; and had the opportunity to get professional headshots offered by Penn State Scranton senior corporate communication student Erika Winklebleck.

Penn State Scranton Career Services Coordinator Jon Tobin advised the students, who are now prospecting for jobs, how to perform in an interview. He gave valuable pointers on how to dress, what to say in an interview situation, things not to say, the importance of punctuality, and courtesy.

Guest speaker Amanda Marchegiani, community relations coordinator at the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, spoke to the group about her day-to-day responsibilities at NRCI and what the organization provides to its community.

Corporate Communication Day served as an excellent opportunity for local organizations, such as Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, to connect with students at Penn State who wish to utilize their corporate communication degree from Penn State and become a vital part of the community.

Students in the corporate communication program have learned many elements needed to become leaders in organizations not only locally, but worldwide. The challenging curriculum consists of public speaking, business writing, business management, crisis management, awareness of media outlets and its stakeholders, public relations, communication research methods, active involvement on campus and in the community, and an opportunity to present a research poster at various campus locations.

“Corporate Communication Day was one of the best opportunities I had as a student on the Scranton campus,” Gray said. “I was able to put all that I learned from COMM 472 Event Planning into the event on March 28. ... As a team, we worked on Corporate Communication Day from the start of the semester to now and we learned what the best practices are for event planning. The team met via Zoom, over emails, and in person throughout the planning process. The best part about the day was connecting students from other campuses that are pursuing a degree in the corporate communication major.”

One unique aspect of the day was the opportunity created by the planners to provide students an outlet for presenting their research posters, not only to attendees, but in a public forum.

During the lunch break, 10 students set up their research posters in The View Café, both for event attendees and the campus community to view.

Matthew Giombetti, senior Penn State Scranton corporate communication student, presented his poster, “Improv in College Groups,” which embraces old and new ideas when interacting as groups in classroom and online settings.

Students are often given “ice-breakers” as an assignment in classes in order to get to know each other and to ease group tension. Giombetti took it a few steps further by offering the idea of challenging students to step outside of their comfort zone, as in real life, and be able to employ “yes and…” tactics commonly found in improvisational comedy and theater. Giombetti takes cues from the comedy television show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” 

“It was inspiring to have such a great turnout with both professors and students,” Giombetti said. “As a group, we really were able to hone in on the importance of corporate communication. I hope we were able to make a great impression on the up-and-coming students.”

Giombetti is an adult learner that has excelled in his studies at Penn State Scranton and is now proposing his study to a public-speaking class to truly challenge students for the unavoidable routine of public speaking.

“I actively try to be more socially aware, open and speak up more in conversations. I wish I did that before now. I think the research I'm doing might enable others to do that,” he said.

His personal growth is an example of how Penn State’s corporate communication program is becoming more vital in campus culture, and how the tools learned under the corporate communication curriculum are providing students with the ultimate tools needed to succeed on campus and after graduation.

Valerie Schrader, associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State Schuylkill, who is also co-coordinator of the Penn State Schuylkill Honors Program, discussed the “big push to take clubs and get them to connect to a larger network.”

She has been active in establishing and promoting student involvement in Alpha Epsilon Lambda, Penn State Schuylkill’s chapter of Lamda Pi Eta, the official honor society of the National Communication Association.

“Lamda Pi Eta not only connects you to your campus, but to the entire corporate communication community,” she said.

During her presentation on Corporate Communication Day, she explained the process for establishing a chapter at other campuses.

Amy Gruzesky, a Penn State alumna and coordinator of communications and community relations at Penn State Scranton, shared her experiences in her first few jobs right out of college, which weren’t particularly glamorous and were very entry level.

“Right out of school, you think you know more than you actually do, and that dream job most likely isn’t going to be the first, or even the second, or the third job you have,” she said. “Sometimes, you have to take that job that you feel doesn’t pay enough or isn’t what you want to do forever, because you have to start somewhere.”

The key is to continue to learn new things and use what you learn and experience to continue to grow your talent level and skill set so that you can get that dream job, or use it to completely change and grow the course of your career as things in your life and the world change, Gruzesky added.