By Molly Loughman
Julia Perry ‘20 and her Business of Creative Enterprises (BCE) cohort made Emerson College history this spring when they became the first-ever graduating class in its BCE undergrad program.
Beyond the College, the small cohort of 30-plus students left a lasting impression with real-world clients after they provided six local partners with applicable creative business services.
“Going into the real world, it made me grateful for the Emerson community. Creativity is, I think, one of the most highly coveted skills in business offices everywhere today, and so to be able to bring that was really cool and unique,” said Perry. “We were a part of building BCE, and to me, what a cool impact we had on shaping the future of the program for all the students who will come in the next five, 10, or 20 years.”
Perry, a Medfield, Massachusetts, native with a passion for theatre and the creative arts in relation to business, came to Emerson in 2016 during the program’s first semester. “BCE was why I chose Emerson. I saw I could take those creative classes without being stifled creatively in a school focused on creativity,” she said.
The original BCE cohort witnessed a change in leadership in 2018 with the arrival of a new BCE director, Wes Jackson, a seasoned music industry entrepreneur. Jackson has since built on the BCE program, with the help of the Marketing Communication department faculty and the students themselves.
“I spent so much time walking myself up to Wes’s office. All the BCE professors I had were so receptive to the feedback and excited to grow it into something that will suit the students,” Perry said. “And honestly, I don’t know anyone else outside Emerson that has the personal relationships we have with professors in our program because of how it was developed and its small size.”
As a rising sophomore in May 2017, Perry introduced her own contribution to the BCE culture — a mentorship program called BCE Buddies. In a bustling urban school where the norm is getting involved in college organizations, clubs, or projects, networking can be challenging for the less outspoken — and that’s what BCE Buddies is there for.
“BCE didn’t have a club, so BCE Buddies was the first step towards figuring out our place within all the different programs,” Perry said. “But it was really the real-world application senior year that shaped me. The real world is nothing like the classroom.”
Last Year, First Client
The inaugural BCE cohort navigated their final academic year with the BCE Senior Residency program, led by both Jackson and Ioana Jucan. Jucan came to Emerson last fall as assistant professor in the Institute For Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies, with an interdisciplinary background in theatre and performance arts, media studies, and philosophy. Jackson and Jucan co-instructed the Senior Residency by splitting the class into two groups.
“The students in this cohort were really amazing, very driven, very passionate, highly skilled, and listening to their feedback, incorporating their feedback, making changes has been very much part of the process this year. So that was great,” said Jucan.
The fall semester was spent studying three different creative enterprises in the Boston area. Students examine everything from their organizational and revenue structures to their business valuation, balance sheets, product marketing, and social and economic impacts in the community.
“So we’re saying, ‘O.K., we taught you all of that, now here are three organizations. Tell me what you think and give me a detailed analysis using all of the language and vocabulary we’ve taught you over the four years,’” said Jackson.
With three student groups each, both Senior Residency classes met with six clients, interviewing them to learn clients’ strengths, weaknesses, and strategic business needs. Each student group composed and pitched three business propositions. By the end of the semester, each group was matched with a client to begin working with in the spring.
“Coming back into the spring, it was a little daunting — like now we just made these grandiose pitches, but how do we put this into practice and how do we adjust to what’s feasible in nine weeks?” said Perry, whose group served HowlRound, a nonprofit theatre organization housed in Emerson’s Office of the Arts.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the BCE Senior Residency students and their clients were forced to modify plans, but nevertheless, collaborations endured.
“They all came out stronger as a person in every single group with every single student and, from Ioana’s and my perspective, they came out smarter, stronger and more equipped to be in today’s marketplace,” Jackson said. “In the BCE Senior Residency, students actually have this opportunity to create something in a real-world setting and put the skills they’ve acquired over the course of their time at Emerson into practice — to have a tangible outcome to their work at the end. They really loved that.”
“The projects were great,” Jucan added. “Our partners were very, very satisfied with the work. The students produced plans that are actionable, and now there’s a result that’s living out there in the world,” said Jucan. “They were proud of their work, and so am I.”
Perry’s student team that partnered with HowlRound was one of the six BCE senior residency projects. All six projects were presented to clients during an end-of-the-year BCE Senior Residency VIDEO ZOOM CALL, during which BCE Senior Awards were also announced.
BCE Senior Residency Profile
CLIENT: HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatre makers worldwide.
GOAL: Expand outreach in the Boston area, especially people ages 18-24
“As a free and open platform that features contemporary discourse from theatre practitioners all over the world, we think HowlRound is an important resource for current students,” said HowlRound Director and Co-Founder Jamie M. Gahlon. “And who better to reach students than other students? This peer-to-peer model of exchange is also reflective of HowlRound values, so the project itself felt like a great fit.”
PLAN: Recruit three to four college ambassadors from four different colleges in the Boston area. To recruit ambassadors, the team networked with people they knew, posted on their own social media accounts, reached out to theatre professors and educators throughout the region, and also posted on the HowlRound social media. Prior to COVID-19, the team recruited 12 college ambassadors from four schools, but ended up with only four ambassadors from two schools (Northeastern University and Emerson) due to disruptions of the pandemic.
In the Pilot Ambassador Program, selected college student ambassadors promote HowlRound to their family, friends, communities and college programs, and on their social media platforms.
- Handbook #1 – An introduction to HowlRound for student ambassadors, their roles as ambassadors, and the goal of the entire program.
- Social Media Posts for Ambassadors – Ambassadors posted HowlRound recommendations each week, in line with themes, which all surrounded the topics of inclusivity, education, and impact of theatre and the arts, particularly in relation to COVID-19 and current world situations. The ambassadors also participated in a two-week College Ambassadors Instagram Takeover.
- Handbook #2 (extension of #1) – A collection of findings from the pilot program detailing areas for improvement in order to continue growing the HowlRound program
Gahlon said that the team’s efforts will have lasting value. “Our plan is to continue and expand upon the BCE students’ peer-to-peer outreach model. We plan to work with student workers who will manage the program for us in the coming year.”
Reflecting on the Senior Residency experience, Perry said, “I think it’s beneficial to develop a relationship with a partner, create and then implement something your business partner will continue using or doing — So you’ve had a tangible impact on a professional organization.”