IMSA Marketing Gives Attribution to Students’ Creativity – A Response to “IMSA Student Production’s Rise to Compliance and Curtailed Creativity”

Submitted by Chris Kaucnik (Director of Marketing and Digital Marketing) and Mike Abrahamson (PR Coordinator)

AcronymgraphicThe November 8, 2013, issue of the ACRONYM contains an anonymously written opinion column entitled “IMSA Student Production’s Rise to Compliance and Curtailed Creativity,” and though we believe it to be an uninformed article, we appreciate the opportunity to respond to the underlying issues, which we have been working on over the last year with IMS and ISP in numerous discussions.

First, as a department with over 35 combined years of marketing, journalism, and public relations experience, we are ardent supporters of a responsible free press; we appreciate our students delving into controversial issues.  We believe in the right of students and the ACRONYM editors to responsibly question or disagree with what Marketing and any other IMSA departments do to achieve the strategic goals with which we are charged.

That said, we are disappointed that the ACRONYM would publish an anonymous article that  only makes pejorative, one-sided assertions about Marketing without giving our department an opportunity to respond as part of the article.

If Marketing had been afforded the professional courtesy of an interview or was asked for a response, we would have been happy to clarify what has transpired in discussions, been agreed upon, and also address any questions about why and how we work with students, in a way that would have been more productive.

This article brings up an issue that we have dealt with extensively over the last year since IMSA Student Productions formed: how can students be included and encouraged in the work that IMS and Marketing do, while allowing us to better serve the Academy? The article unfortunately frames this issue and hard work in a manner that is inaccurate.

We’d like to address these complaints straight on and with data.  A review of our official Facebook Page shows that nine photo albums, consisting of 58 pictures, have been credited to our students or IMSA Student Productions, in ways in which IMS and ISP leaders deemed acceptable, in the last two months alone. That is an average of a student getting credit for taking a picture almost every day; to say that Marketing is not interested in student creativity or attribution by not publishing their work is just simply untrue by the numbers.  As well, having student photography on our IMSA-owned media generates thousands of impressions for these students.

The other complaint, which appears to be contradictory to the first, is that Marketing is “stealing student produced media,” as The ACRONYM’S Facebook page proclaimed.  This premise is simply misguided due to the lack of a broader view about IMSA and what we must do to insure it is here for generations of students to come.

Like all of the administrators and departments at IMSA, Marketing works hard for IMSA because we believe in the Academy.  Our charges are many, but chiefly revolve around keeping IMSA funded and growing not only while the current students are here, but for the many decades ahead.   As an Illinois state agency, mostly funded by the state, we were established to advance the IMSA legislative charges as follows:

“…There shall be established the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy to serve the people of Illinois as a preparatory institution and the school system of the State as a catalyst and laboratory for the advancement of teaching.  The primary role of the Academy shall be to offer a uniquely challenging education for students talented in the areas of mathematics and science…The Academy shall also carry a responsibility to stimulate further excellence for all Illinois schools in mathematics and science…”

The majority of student costs are paid for by the state through the people of Illinois who have likely never heard of IMSA; therefore, one of the fundamental goals of the Marketing department is to show that IMSA is worthy of continued funding and attendance.

Showcasing the excellent and hard work that our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community do is one of our primary strategies behind this goal. In contrast to the article’s assumption of our will to stifle student creativity, Marketing knows and sees evidence that if the world sees the work that the IMSA community does as a whole, they will support our institution fully.

That means every day we are working hard to find and feature student accomplishments, interesting projects that alumni are working on, departmental events and new services, faculty research, and more. As the title of this article states, we give attribution to our students’ creativity, work, and achievements, and we strive to be there for all our students’ accomplishments and events, but not only to give students credit, but to also to get as many impressions, within and outside our community, as possible to recognize these and brand IMSA, creating a knowledgeable community around it.

It is important for all students to understand that their voice and accomplishments affect the students who come next.  Understand that our building, equipment, and everything tangible that makes IMSA what it is, is not owned by any of us.  Students are here to learn about STEM, photography, music, and any other interests they want to pursue–that is the important part of the experience.

Finally, by way of example, let’s take a look at what it means to publish and credit using the Diwali performance.  If we get an excellent picture from a talented student from Diwali and we feature it on our media, it is not only because we are impressed or proud with the work that went into taking that picture; it is also because we are proud of our students, who practice their dances in the main building between classes and late into the night in the residence halls, the faculty who advise the student organization, the staff that organize the use of the auditorium, the RCs who supervise rehearsals on their off days, the maintenance workers who prepare the stage in between performances, and the family members who travel hours to support it. None of these people are doing this work to get their name in a Facebook album; they do it because they care about IMSA, its community, take pride in the accomplishments here, and want this work to continue for years to come. We in Marketing do our work for the same reason and are happy to collaborate with anyone who shares this mission.

We extend an open invitation to work with any students who want to engage with our area further in a positive manner.  We want to work professionally with students and everyone at IMSA to make IMSA all it can be now and in the future.

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