Finding your pitch at a STEM school

Blacksburg, Va. April 12 — RAIN ROCKING: Despite the weather, students still managed to play their instruments for audience members. Photo: Gretchen Kernbach.

by Gretchen Kernbach–

“It’s really fun to experience, to feel something,” said Kacy McAllister, the Box Office and Student Engagement Manager at the Moss Arts Center.

McAllister is talking about Virginia Tech Music Day, An unlikely event one wouldn’t expect on a STEM school’s campus.

Music Day has now been a reoccurring event for the past four years. It has its own motto, “Ut Musica Faciam” (That I May Make Music).

Organized by the Moss Arts Center Student Ambassadors, the event is designed to bring awareness to not only different styles of music but also to the local artists right here in Blacksburg.

“We’ve been successfully programming about 20 plus groups a year,” added McAllister.

Amongst the variety of performances were the metal group “Forerunner,” and folk band “The Chinquapin Hunters.” Both bands took the same stage in the early afternoon in the Moss Arts Center. However, they delivered very different sounds.

Speaking of sounds, live music isn’t something most Hokies would expect from their science, engineering and business-heavy campus.

According to the Office of Institutional Research, in the Fall of 2018, approximately 4,565 undergraduate students were enrolled in the Pamplin College of Business. In the College of Engineering, a roaring 8,411 undergraduate students enrolled as well. Moreover, only 3,837 undergraduate students were enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences — a mere 167 students in the School of Performing Arts.

Last, but not least, 4,549 undergraduate students were accounted for in the College of Science. These numbers total to a rough estimate of over 17,00 students partaking in a STEM-related major.

So, why even bother partaking in Music Day?

Sophomore student, and Moss Arts Student Ambassador, Myranda Holden, said the event came to be when President Sands motioned for the school to be more well-rounded. She explained that her “organization decided [Virginia Tech] needed something like this.”

Little do Hokies know, there is a thriving music department on campus in the halls of Squires Student Center. And the students love it there.

“The professors really care about your future,” said sophomore Julian Thomas, who is majoring in Trumpet Performance.

Thomas said that a smaller program means more one-on-one time with professors and that everyone knows everyone.

According to the School of Performing Arts, “We pride ourselves in the high-quality training we provide to our music majors, as well as the many opportunities for majors and non-majors alike to ‘bring their music’ to Virginia Tech.

The site goes on to “encourage all who are interested to pursue double majors.” That’s just what freshman Caroline Bingham did.

“It’s really important because some people are really just trying to figure out whether or not music is what they want to do,” said Bingham, a double major in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and Trumpet Performance. “It’s a good compromise.”

Virginia Tech provides a unique experience to students, offering a path not only in science, technology, engineering or math, but also a musical one. And in some cases — both.

“Music makes us human,” Holden said.

Dating app ambassadors

Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 19 — Greetings: Tinder U has a variety of college-friendly slogans. Photo: Gretchen Kernbach

By Gretchen Kernbach–

More often than not, a Facebook event pops up on your timeline accompanied by the words “bar” and “tab.” When combined – a bar tab. All that’s required of attendees is downloading Tinder U or Bumble and swiping right.

Who is behind these events that involve free drinks and friends? Brand ambassadors – a popular college gig that’s spreading throughout the nation.

According to the NY Times, “Paying college students to push products is nothing new for companies.”

Here at Virginia Tech, both Bumble and Tinder thrive off of free giveaways and fun events in order to promote their brand. However, whether or not these marketing programs are beneficial to real-world careers is in question.

According to Tinder U’s website, an ambassador’s role is to “engage with students on campus and encourage people to download the app. Further, collect feedback on the brand and product and bring it back to the team.”

A common misconception given to college brand ambassadors is the notion that they relatively do no work. Furthermore, it’s noted that “for busy students, it is an easy, low-pressure way to make extra money or get free products.”

Is there really any quality effort that goes into this type of internship?

“There actually is a lot of work that goes into each of our events especially for our large mid-semester or end-of-the-year events,” said Kathy Bui, a Tinder U ambassador. “We have to contact different venues and we have to set a budget.”

Bui said that she engages in weekly “Skype meetings with Tinder headquarters” in order to discuss future events. She is also responsible for items like t-shirts, hats, and fanny packs to give out at Tinder events.

Director of marketing for the Pamplin College of Business, Donna Wertalik, emphasized that job recruiters look for “unique skill sets that separate out the normal marketing student.”

She emphasized that these dating app ambassador programs focus more on event management and communication. And if an ambassador wanted to get more out of their internship, they would need to assert themselves.

“[Students] can push for ‘can I see the analytics behind the assignment?'” said Wertalik.

Research on both dating apps is essential in learning what the benefits are for either ambassador program. Like any internship, the major question lies: how will this better prepare me for post-grad life?

Blacksburg, Va. Feb. 19 — Power to it: Donna Wertalik poses with one of her many National Telly awards. Photo: Gretchen Kernbach
Blacksburg, Va. Feb. 19 — All smiles: Kathy Bui proudly wears her Tinder U swag as a brand ambassador. Photo: Gretchen Kernbach