Northeastern University — Redefining the Term “Experiential”

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Ed Powers
Ed Powers


Many of HubSpot Academy's Education Partners have explored the boundaries of experiential learning, or learning by doing. And HubSpot supports putting theory into practice — after all, how can you see if a strategy works if you don't try it out?

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Case Study: Northeastern

A prime example: Northeastern, an Education Partner, recently finished the first year of their Virtual Public Relations Firm (VPRF). The VPRF’s mission is to provide students with next-level experiential learning by offering key core courses in sequence, working with the same client over an extended period, and having instructors serve as mentors. Based on both achievements and positive feedback from everyone involved, Northeastern is planning for bigger and better things this school year.

In 2019 and into 2020, nearly three dozen students participated in some phase of VPRF work on behalf of two clients: Neuron, a San Francisco-based UX design firm founded by Northeastern alumni, and the university's own Biopharmaceutical Analysis Training Laboratory, or BATL.

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Under the guidance of instructors, who are also industry professionals, the students first developed a research report, then created a strategic PR plan, and ultimately designed and delivered a wide range of promotional content to help their clients increase brand awareness and reach new audiences. For Neuron and BATL, the experience was similar to working with a PR agency.

Jared Auclair, Director of BATL, said: “I think the students were superb. They produced really high-quality work.”

As Education Partners of HubSpot Academy, the VPRF had access to HubSpot’s Enterprise Marketing Suite, enabling students to collaborate virtually on HubSpot's platform. Outside of this, HubSpot volunteered its own employees to serve as guest lecturers and help students navigate the wide range of courses and certifications available in HubSpot Academy.

From Twitter to Blogging to Media Pitches — Create Lasting Impact

VPRF delivered communications services for BATL that included a new Twitter account and a blog. Students also focused on enhancing Neuron's brand presence through the development of an integrated social media plan, media pitches, media lists, and outreach to journalists. Finally, VPRF provided materials to enable both BATL and Neuron to keep the momentum even after the VPRF project was over.

“Working with Neuron was a highly beneficial experience for me,” said Stephanie Leandri, a VPRF participant who recently graduated from the Corporate and Organizational Communication program. “I was able to better understand [concepts] and gain experience with client relations as my team worked to create and deliver high-quality digital media content for Neuron.”

What It's Really Like to Do End-to-End PR Work for a Client Organization

So how well did the VPRF fulfill its mission? According to Dr. Carl Zangerl, Faculty Director, Communication, Media, and Human Resources Management, the firm exceeded all first-year expectations.

“I’ve heard from students that the experience felt like working in a 'real-world' agency. They learned not only the public relations creative process from research to strategy to tactical implementation, they also gained insights into managing client relationships. And the clients have said the students’ performance equaled that of experienced PR staff. This is a proven model for preparing students for rewarding careers in public relations, marketing communication, and related disciplines."

Learn more about Northeastern VPRF to see an Education Partner at work.

The Experiential Learning Continues

Over the summer, 17 of Northeastern’s digital media and organizational communication students — motivated by the energy of the VPRF project — tackled an ambitious co-curricular project to develop a website, Husky Communications, that showcases their work, with the guidance of instructor Christina Inge.

Using HubSpot Academy Certifications for Credit Transfer

The VPRF is one of many initiatives Northeastern is pursuing in partnership with HubSpot to prepare students to enter the workforce.

Northeastern and HubSpot have worked together to allow students entering the Bachelor’s completion program in Digital Communication and Media to receive 6 credits of transfer credit by earning specific HubSpot Academy certifications. If you’re thinking about completing your degree and want to use your existing HubSpot Academy certifications, you can find out more information about this program from Northeastern University.

As Northeastern continues to experiment with ways to prepare students for rewarding careers in marketing and communication, they look forward to sharing ideas with HubSpot Academy’s other Education Partners.

Interested in becoming an Education Partner? Learn more about the Education Partner Program.

This post was written by Christina Inge, Ed Powers, and Carl Zangerl, professors at Northeastern University.

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