Leadership in Action

The best education comes from real life.


That’s what motivates ComLead students to pursue community partnerships each semester. In core classes like Organizational Communication and specialty areas like Fundraising and Marketing, students partner with community organizations — applying class concepts to solve real world problems. For years, Canisius Communication Department Chair Dr. John Dahlberg has integrated community partnerships in his Case Studies in Integrated Marketing Communication course.

“It’s not something hypothetical that you made for a class,” Dr. Dahlberg explains, “It’s a real project that solved real problems for an organization.” In his class, students have created Marketing Communication Plans for the Buffalo History Museum, Child & Family Services, and Brown & Tarantino and other organizations.

Whether they’re working with a for-profit or non-profit organization, students begin the process in class, learning the parts of an integrated marketing plan. Then they sit down with their partner organization, often during an on-site visit and consultation.

“Every client’s different,” Dr. Dahlberg observed, “and so you’re coming in to the middle of something but you don’t know what you’re in the middle of until you’re in there.” Organizations might reach out to students to meet needs ranging from using social media more effectively to rebranding, customer research or expanding to new media.

After this initial “brain dunk,” students work together to identify and solve issues.  Through the years, students have offered their clients services related to marketing, advertising, public relations, sales promotion and more, and they experience the fluidity and complexity of Integrated Marketing Communications.

This past spring, students in Dr. Dahlberg’s class collaborated with the Buffalo Niagara Aquarium. They provided a comprehensive analysis and proposal for launching the Aquarium’s coral reef exhibit. Students walked away with a portfolio of proven work. But the collaborative experience itself is just as rewarding as the end result.

In the workplace, innovators are often willing to take risks or try a new approach to solving a problem, but they don’t always get that creative freedom. In the ComLead program’s partnerships, however, organizations are looking for student’s very best, most creative and innovative ideas.  They are welcomed to pursue what’s never been done before.

“It’s a real client with a real problem,” Dr. Dahlberg believes, “I think that’s got to be the best way to learn.”

Check out our Alumni Newsletter to get an insider’s look at the life of a ComLead grad!

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