When Grammy Award winning jazz musician Lannie Battistini releases his fourth studio album this month, students in the University of South Florida Department of English will know they played an integral role in its success.
As part of a new capstone course within the department’s Professional Writing, Rhetoric & Technology concentration, students worked with Battistini and his management team to develop, design and implement a new brand for the artist.
“The goal of this course is to align with a community partner and work on a real-world, authentic project,” said Michael Shuman, PhD, the course’s instructor. “We really want these to be projects that have a tangible impact and aren’t just purely academic in nature.”
The class represents a significant departure from the traditional English curriculum. While the department still focuses heavily on literature and writing, this course, and many others, are designed to prepare students for careers in a variety of fields, like marketing, communications, public relations and graphic design.
Along with his teaching and research, Shuman coordinates the department’s Technical Communication and New Media Internship Program, placing students with businesses and organizations in work-learning situations. His role there has helped foster relationships with many local companies and organizations – making this capstone course a reality.
USF partnered with local marketing agency, Hands in Motion Productions and Marketing, which is run by Battistini along with his wife and marketing director, Neysa Rodriguez-Battistini. The couple says they were thrilled to work with USF on the album release and have been impressed with end-products.
“We have had such positive experiences in past years with Dr. Shuman's internship program that it really made sense for us to extend our work together,” Battistini said. “From years of experience working with these students,we found that they are really very creative, have great attitudes and overall very eager to learn. So, it was really a no brainer to participate in this pilot capstone.”
Students developed the assets from the ground up, starting with a discovery phase to learn more about the artist and what his management team wanted to see in the delivered products. The group designed and developed a new website, press kit, social media campaign and even the album cover and artwork for Battistini’s latest album, ‘Moving On’ – all of which will have the potential to be seen by music lovers around the world.
“I honestly found this to be one of my favorite classes since I’ve been at USF,” said Jonacee Penick, a senior English major who did much of a visual design work. “This is exactly the kind of work I hope to pursue after graduation, so having the chance to do this while still in school is a big opportunity.”
“It’s really amazing being able to work on a real project that you can hold in your hands once it’s done,” said Beth Lockridge, the group’s project manager and English major. “It also gives us something to be able to utilize in our portfolios, which is really crucial.”
For the English department’s faculty, those student responses are precisely what motivated the creation of this course. Shuman says giving students the chance to create portfolio pieces is a huge benefit. And, since the class more closely mimics a professional work-environment instead of a traditional class, students are able to improve their interpersonal skills and project management.
“I think this class is effectively letting students know that they can use what they learn in the classroom in a real-world context that has meaning,” Shuman said. “And because these products can be used in their portfolios, it really does help with employment opportunities after graduation. ”
Shuman says they plan to continue offering this capstone course and hopes to be able to bring in community partners that can introduce students to a variety of fields.
You can learn more about the USF Department of English’s innovative offerings by visiting their website.
'Moving On', from Grammy winning artist Lannie Battistini is set to be released on May 17.