The study of strategic communication has never been so relevant as it is today. As international alliances shift and markets transform, a global mindset on media and information poises students to make an impact across academic disciplines and professional sectors. That was the goal of a University of Colorado Boulder program in Paris this past summer, which included a Belgium study tour to provide a third dimension to comparative study as students considered how contemporary media and communication practice is shaped by culture and history.
The group, led by professors Jolene Fisher and Toby Hopp of the College of Media, Communication and Information, spent three days in Belgium, where they dove deep to explore the industry in a Belgian context. The students started their visit from an institutional perspective, meeting with the communication strategy team at the E.U. Commission in Brussels. Seeking to understand the impact of Brexit and the rise of anti-E.U. sentiment across the continent, students learned about the campaigns and strategies at work across multiple platforms to promote a strong and cohesive E.U.
On the next day in Bruges, the group visited d-artagnan, a full-service communication agency founded in 2001. Here, they met with Frederick Morel, creative copywriter. He led a tour of the agency and spoke to students about his career, which brought him from a Ph.D. to two communications conglomerates before finding his place at d-artagnan. Later, he challenged the students to devise proposals for a campaign in small groups before presenting their ideas and receiving feedback.
Finally, back in Brussels, the group met with two distinct agencies. The first was 20Something, a boutique creative agency specializing in branding for Generations Y, Z and the youngest markets. Uniquely, 20Something operates a sub-agency staffed and managed completely by university interns. Colorado students were able to ask co-founder Marc Van den Bossche about the agency’s unique target demographic and mission, after which they were invited to view sample campaigns.
In contrast, the group ended their time in Belgium at Ketchum, a global public relations firm and part of the massive Omnicom Group. Paul Cohen, Partner and Director of International Corporate and Institutional Affairs, explained the firm’s expanding international corporate and institutional affairs work centered in their Brussels branch. His own career brought him to New York, China, and Hong Kong before moving to Brussels in 2013. He led students in a discussion of video case studies and addressed the changing nature of communications, before leading a tour of the offices, a 100-year old former factory where imported wine and spirits were bottled and sold.
The agencies in Belgium were impressed by the level of interest and interaction from students, who returned to Paris with diverse new perspectives on how strategic communications projects are approached in Europe.
ACCENT collaborates with U.S. partners during the program design process to develop topical study tours throughout France, Spain, Italy, the U.K., and around Europe, building on program themes through comparative, experiential study. Please reach out to ACCENT’s Program Development team at email@example.com if you are interested in discussing these ideas for your current or future study abroad program.