ComArtSci Alumna Writes a Love Letter to Detroit and Secures Career in Social Media

Posted on: July 10, 2017

ComArtSci alumna Amber Lewis was recently named one of Crain’s Twenty in their 20s. Lewis, who is now the digital and social media manager of the Detroit mayor’s office, captured the hearts of Detroiters on Valentine’s Day with the #DetroitLoveLetter social campaign. Quickly, the hashtag was trending on Twitter, with companies and residents contributing their affection for the Motor City.

AmberLewis1(Wide)Lewis graduated from Michigan State University in 2015 with a major in advertising with a management and media track and a minor in Spanish. Lewis’ major had a focus on social media, so she was able to learn about strategies, skills and audiences in the classroom that would build the foundation for her career.

My advertising management major really laid the foundation for my knowledge and how I apply it to what I do,” Lewis said. “I received my New Media Driver’s License and through the course I learned the practical application of tools and tactics in digital and social media. My consumer behavior course taught me a lot about audiences, something I use when buying ads and targeting posts on social media.”

As a ComArtSci undergraduate, Lewis was highly involved on and off campus. She got hands-on experience by managing the digital and social accounts for Emmons Hall Government, African American Celebratory, Pinky Promise and Spartan Remix. She studied brand strategy and storytelling abroad in Cannes, learned networking and communication skills through Career Services workshops and participated in the Marcus Graham Project

From the Classroom to the Boardroom

The Marcus Graham Project is a global organization that travels to different cities and partners with advertising agencies to host workshops. They assign a project to work on within a certain time frame with the chosen client. The organization’s goal is to get more minorities in advertising and marketing positions. Lewis’ participation in the Marcus Graham Project helped her transition her skillset from an educational to a professional setting. Her client was the City of Detroit.

“That workshop was eye-opening, because when I came to the city, I was a one-person department so I had to start from scratch,” Lewis said. “It was kind of like sticking my toes in the water for what I’m doing now because they give you these [social media] platforms and they say make them great. I would say it was a good transition into the role.”

Lewis and her team were instructed to create a social campaign for the city. The only guideline given was the need for a better social strategy. Lewis and her team presented to the Chief of Staff for the City of Detroit, who Lewis connected with and gave her resume to. A few months later, she was hired in as their digital and social media associate. Later, she was promoted to digital and social media manager.

For eight months, Lewis worked to transform the City of Detroit’s social strategy. She was gathering content and developing ideas all on her own.

Lewis worked to unify the brand presence for the city’s social platforms. The platforms had different names, the images were outdated and not all of the pages were verified. She also focused on growing their following. In 6 months, the City of Detroit’s social platforms grew their following by a total of 27 percent. Overall, their platforms have grown by 30,000 more followers.

“I think with me coming onboard, we did a lot more fun and engaging posts that weren’t necessarily related to city programs and initiatives, but more so to our audience,” Lewis said. “The way in which we put information out has evolved, so it’s not just posting a screenshot of a press release, it’s getting content and talking to people who will be impacted. A lot of times, through storytelling, it’s how people connect to concepts.”

Lewis said what she loves about her job is that no two days are the same. In her position, she manages the digital and social presence for the mayor and the City of Detroit, including running the social channels. She develops strategy, produces content, gives creative direction to photographers and videographers, covers press events and works on ad buying and campaign creation.

Disrupting the Norm

The Valentine’s Day from which the #DetroitLoveLetter social campaign was born began as just another day. Lewis was in the office with the communications director, media relations director and the digital and social media associate she had recently hired. They wanted to do something fun for the holiday and, with a little brainstorming, they crafted different themed posts for Detroit-based companies. Their goal was to get local people and companies involved.

“It was like the #1 trending topic within an hour and it stayed that way for a majority of the day,” Lewis said. “Valentine's Day is celebrated everywhere. In the City of Detroit, we have a sense of pride, so [we wanted to figure out] how to share that and tap into that pride while also being relevant on a topic. It wasn’t necessarily promoting a city program or initiative but it was associated with the brand of the City of Detroit.”

Lewis’ advice for social strategy is to stay current and relevant by knowing what’s going on, what’s coming up, and most of all, knowing your audience by discovering what language, tone and content connects with them. However, she explained, a lot of the process is trial and error.

Lewis recommends ComArtSci students use their college’s resources, such as experiential learning, study abroad opportunities and the Career Center. Moreover, she said students should be brave as they enter an industry that is still being explored.

“Don’t be afraid to disrupt the norm and follow your gut,” Lewis said. “I think a lot of times, since social and digital media is a relatively new industry, a lot of companies may not understand the importance of it or the resources that you need. [Don’t be] afraid to voice what you feel would be best for your company, your brand or yourself. Innovation comes from being different and creating change - so that disruption is necessary.”

By Rianna Middleton

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Online strategic communication degree empowers working professionals

Pretty woman is working in a café

Organizations seek out the abilities. Professionals strive for the knowledge and skills. And starting Spring 2017, the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences will welcome its first class into a new online master’s program, convenient for working professionals, on strategic communications.

The Master of Arts in Strategic Communication represents the first time the College has offered a degree program 100 percent online. The program responds to the needs of professionals through its flexible delivery as well as through content that addresses the challenges of a 21st century communication environment.

"Given the rapidly changing communication ecosystem, mid-career professionals are eager for training to update their skills," says Prabu David, Dean of the College of ComArtSci. "Currently, communication professionals, including our own alumni, do not have rich, in-state options to learn new media techniques. This new online M.A. in strategic communication fills that gap."

Students in the nine-course, 30-credit program will examine how to leverage today's evolving media and digital mix into an integrated marketing and communications strategy for businesses, start-ups, non-profits or government agencies. Expert faculty will handle all aspects of course content and bring expertise in corporate messaging, news and information, fundamental communication processes, audience research and data analytics, and new technologies. Students will also complete a service-learning project that enables them to apply their newly acquired expertise within a community setting.

"The College of ComArtSci has long-standing leadership in an integrated theory-to-practice orientation toward effective communication strategy and tactics," says John Sherry, associate dean of for graduate studies in ComArtSci. "There is no other college in the world with such broad and deep coverage of these issues."

Students can complete courses and requirements from anywhere, anytime and at their own pace in one to three years. The program is ideally suited for working professionals with three to five years of experience in communications as well as for business and communication entrepreneurs. Students will also have opportunity to collaborate with other online learners, further enhancing their professional network.

"The ability for individuals to be located anywhere and enroll in this master's program is a distinct advantage," says ComArtSci Alum April M. Clobes, president and CEO of the MSU Federal Credit Union. "Being able to complete the program while working full-time is also essential for long-term success. MSU's high rankings in the field of communications along with excellent faculty, will make this a highly sought after degree."

The program is currently accepting applications and no GRE is required. To learn more about MSU's new online master's degree program in strategic communication through the College of ComArtSci, visit or contact the program director at

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Young Alumni Spotlight: Lauren Lahrman

Posted on: February 26, 2016

Lauren Lahrman graduated in 2015 from MSU with a B.A. in advertising and a concentration in media management from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

As someone who is passionate about change and culture, Lahrman dabbled in many industries.

"I was always drawn to what I thought would leave the biggest impact,” she said. "I focused on advertising because I believed branding and marketing had the biggest societal impact."

Eventually, however, Lahrman landed in technology.

"It drives innovation in every single industry around it,” she said. “Technology defines our lives.”

When Google turned her down during her job search in her last semester, Lahrman thought her one shot at getting her dream job was over. But then, she started applying to as many tech companies as she could.

“One month before I graduated, Microsoft made me an offer that I could not refuse,” Lahrman said. “The funny thing is, I've been contacted by Google about their career opportunities twice since joining Microsoft.”

In a sense, Lahrman was lucky that her transition from college to career was smooth. Her insight on the matter is, “the initial city you move to does not equal the city you stay in forever.”

Lahrman also said students should look at potential career paths and not necessarily consider what they are passionate about first, but what they are good at.
“It’s easier to turn talent into a passion than it is to turn a passion into a talent,” Lahrman said.

Her mentor Professor Karl Gude is an exceptional example. Gude initially moved to New York wanting to be a children’s book illustrator and currently heads the information-graphics program at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism.

"Never dismiss the doors that open to you just because it wasn’t a part of your original plan,” Gude said.

Although Lahrman was involved in campus organizations, she stressed the importance of building relationships with her professors and networking.

“Taking the time to develop a connection is a pertinent skill," she said. "It’s what has gotten me this far in life,”

In her final year, Lahrman worked in the Assistant Provost’s Office at MSU and met many faculty members and visiting scholars.

“It opened my world of contacts wide up, the people who teach and work and visit and share at this school are one in a million,” she said. "I haven't found that to be any more true now that I've graduated and no longer see these people every day.”

by Rachel Tang, Public Relations Account Executive & Journalism Senior 

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Recent Alum Offers Tips for ComArtSci Connect

Posted on: February 12, 2016

Herasanna-RichardsCommunication alumna Herasanna Richards, who graduated last December, obtained her internship with Martin Waymire in Lansing after networking at last year’s ComArtSci Connect. After graduation, she accepted a job at Grassroots Midwest as a communications specialist. Herasanna will be sharing her story as part of the Young Alumni Panel on February 16t and will be at ComArtSci Connect on February 19.

When she went into the career fair, Richards listed Martin Waymire as her first choice.

“I actually went around to different tables and talked to other representatives to get my nerves out," she said. "I wanted to feel as fresh as possible for when I was speaking with the agency that I really wanted to get involved with.”

Richards advises students to prepare for the fair by researching companies beforehand. She says that finding out a company’s needs is essential to tailoring your resume and personal pitch.

“I took this opportunity to visit the ComArtSci Career Center and have some extra eyes review my resume and cover letter,” she said.

Richards adds that the great thing about the college’s annual career fair is the tremendous range of companies to network with. She also says there are a lot preparation workshops during the week of the fair that range from resume critiques to talks by industry professionals.

Richards says the most important part of the process of internships is the learning aspect, and that some internships may not be everything you expect.

“Speaking up can really benefit you through encouraging change in the program, or help you recognize that this might not be the best fit,” Richards said. “You have to be able to affirm your own value within an organization. Remember that you were brought in for a reason and are expected to be a knowledgeable contributor to the organization.”

Other tips to use throughout your college career

1. Start somewhere.
“Pick something that you feel interested in and begin to connect the dots from there.”

2. If you try it, you might like it. If you don’t, that’s okay.
“Your primary purpose there is to learn about the organization and yourself.”

3. Use your resources.
“If you haven’t been to the ComArtSci Career Fair, go! It’s the best opportunity to have a face-to-face connection with employers that may turn into a long lasting relationship and help you make huge leaps in your career.”

4. Networking at your college and beyond.
“These organizations are awesome because they not only connect you with students with similar interests and goals, but they also can connect you with professionals in your field that can help you land that dream job, or write a recommendation to graduate school.”

5. Mentorships are the key to success.
“I wouldn’t have my job in my dream career if it wasn’t for having solid mentors.”

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