Discovering a Need
In the fall of 2017, we met with our incoming freshmen class and talked about how they could gain hands-on experience in broadcasting by working for KUNV Radio and UNLV TV. We told them how they could sign up for courses in which they would anchor and produce news and sports programming, showed a video of our students covering the presidential debate held at UNLV in 2016, and told them about Rebelfolio - our online website for long-form journalism. After the meeting, I realized we didn’t have any kind of professional outlet for our students in integrated marketing communication (IMC), which includes advertising, public relations, and marketing communication. More than half of our majors concentrated their studies in IMC, but we had no professional laboratory for them to gain hands-on experience.
The Beginning of Rebel Media Group
That changed in January of 2018 when we hired Benjamin Morse, a digital editor at Marvel Entertainment, to join our faculty and build a social media agency. We introduced courses in social media and put Ben to work teaching and recruiting students to do social media campaigns. A few months earlier, Leslie Fitzsimmons, KUNV’s director of underwriting and corporate sponsorships, hired a few students to begin managing social media for some of the radio station’s clients. Leslie and Ben soon teamed up to recruit clients for the agency. Ben proposed a YouTube Live video for one of his clients, requiring the services of UNLV TV, and the collaboration expanded to include Jennifer Ream, interim general manager of UNLV TV. The faculty team sought advice from media entrepreneur, Nehme Abouzeid, and they formed a converged media services operation with the name of Rebel Media Group (RMG). We eventually recruited several professionals to serve as an advisory board and they have provided our students with advice, mentorship, and workshops.
Serving the Campus and Community
Since its creation, RMG has provided multimedia services to a variety of clients, both on campus and in the community. One of the highlights was RMG’s work for nine of UNLV’s colleges and schools as part of the university’s Rebels Give fund-raising campaign. The university raised about $1 million, twice as much as expected, and those colleges and schools working with RMG brought in more money than those that chose not to use their services. Student involvement in RMG also exploded from a handful in spring 2018 to nearly 40 interns and volunteers working on projects for 10 to 12 non-profit, for-profit, and campus clients. With the vision of a student-staffed, professionally guided multimedia operation, RMG has flourished. It engages students in every aspect of the work, including meeting with clients, developing campaigns, writing copy and managing social media. We’ve had a lot of successes and made some mistakes. But most important, it is a learning laboratory that will help students be better prepared for today’s media marketplace by providing relevant instruction and professional experience necessary to become leaders and entrepreneurs in a media-saturated society.