Terps tackle business

By Andi Cwieka
For Unwind magazine

Asos, Victoria’s Secret, Spotify, Red Bull, American Eagle and Adobe. Not sure what they all have in common?

Hint: They’re walking around on this campus.

Students from the University of Maryland, as well as others around the country, are taking time away from their studies and social lives to become on-the-ground representatives for all of the above companies.

Promoting the brand, connecting with students and running the company’s social media is all in a day’s work for these students.

“I put a human face on the company,” junior information systems and operations management business analytics major Katharine Kong said. As a Google representative, her job includes planning events, promoting internship opportunities and working with the business school, she said.

For other representatives, their jobs are more social.

“Our responsibility is really to get people involved with the brand,” said senior kinesiology major Kaitie Silk, a Victoria’s Secret PINK representative. Social media marketing and events with giveaways are central to her role.

With almost 2,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram combined, social media is clearly a key tool  the brand is using to connect with college students. But with that amount of reach, fans aren’t always happy.

“We have one or two Instagram followers who are pretty obsessed with the brand who are pretty harsh when they didn’t make it in time to get a freebie,” Silk said.

Despite the backlash, Silk said, the following “is increasing day by day.”

Another aspect of representing a company is face-to-face interaction with students – and lots of it. “I have to approach strangers and try to sell them on an idea,” said junior journalism and marketing major Jon Mednick, a representative for Muscle Milk. “You have to play off who you’re talking to and learn how to sense their level of interest.”

While it’s easy to imagine that anyone would be cooperative when free stuff is involved, that isn’t always the case.

“Sometimes when I try to connect with people, they just look at it as a free sample,” Mednick said. “They don’t want to hear what I have to say.”

Kong also knows the difficulties of trying to get college students interested. “The hardest part is gaining traction,” she said.

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These campus representative programs have the potential to not only get the brand’s name out on the campus, but also start careers. Even though she’s a kinesiology major, Silk said that working as a PINK representative gave her a leg up in getting a job there this summer, and Victoria’s Secret is a company she “definitely wouldn’t discount [working with] post-graduation.”

Even though these student business representatives may be constantly busy working for their companies, they can go unrecognized by students.

“I usually find out people are business reps because they tell me – I don’t usually know,” said sophomore microbiology major Nicole Falus. “If anything, [the student reps] should definitely get their presences more known.”

Falus, who recently received help from the Apple representative Sherry Levine, a sophomore, said she had a positive experience. “She gave good advice and was very thorough,”  Falus said. “She knew what she was doing.”

The presence of these companies on the campus can be beneficial for both the representatives and other students – the representatives gain experience in marketing and working with real companies, and others get to interact with a brand they might not have heard of or know much about, senior psychology major Jaaziel Cano said.

“I like the student reps being on campus because sometimes I don’t know about a specific business,” Cano said. “They’re always there to inform students about what is out there.”

For the student representatives, this is a unique experience.

“My favorite part [about representing a company] is all of the opportunities,” Kong, who is also working with the Division of IT to help faculty and staff transition from Microsoft Outlook to Gmail, said. “I’m going to a conference … I’m speaking about what UMD is doing to other professors and IT departments from other schools, something I couldn’t have done otherwise.”

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