As any business or marketing graduate will tell you, one of the biggest challenges in an early career is getting valuable workplace experience.
Several years ago, two Business School academics at Torrens University started a conversation about how to help students overcome this challenge.
Ayodeji Okuneye and Fabricio Masson gradually developed a plan. What if they started their own marketing agency within the Business School, and ‘hired’ students to fill all the roles? After two years, many conversations, and countless hours of work later, Nanga Mai was born.
“Nanga Mai, which is the Eora (Sydney) Indigenous word for ‘to dream’ provides students in the business vertical with the opportunity to engage in live briefs with industry partners, as a means to increase their job-readiness skills, and reach the job of their dreams.” – Tilda Koshaba (Program Director in Torrens Business, Director of The Chad Robinson Legacy Foundation)
So, how did they get this innovative project off the ground?
As the saying goes, “Nothing worth doing is easy.” The creation of Nanga Mai took long hours of negotiation and design. As Ayodeji and Fabricio discovered, having the support of the university was essential to turning their dream into a reality.
“Deji and I had different discussions for a couple of years on how we could offer opportunities to students to showcase their talents and put into practice what they were learning in the classroom. After fine-tuning some points, we had this idea of creating an in-house agency, so students would be in contact with real projects through real companies.
We came up with a business plan and presented to the university. It was a long process and took several layers of approval, but we knew it was worthwhile, considering how valuable this opportunity would be to students.
Having the support from Professor Justin Beilby (Vice Chancellor), Jerome Casteigt (General Manager for Business and Hospitality) and Greg Harper (Dean for Business and Hospitality) was a great assurance for our students.” – Fabricio Masson
Just like any other marketing agency, Nanga Mai designs and manages campaigns for ‘real world’ organisations.
Students studying within the ‘Business Vertical’ (including Marketing, Public Relations and Communication, Sports Management, Event Management and general Business specialisations) apply to work within the agency, just like any job.
They are selected based off their consistent commitment to academic performance, leadership skills and eagerness to engage in industry-based opportunities.
This year, Nanga Mai begins work on their exciting first live project with a major client: the Chad Robinson Legacy Foundation.
This important foundation works to support athletes facing mental health issues, in the name of Chad Robinson, an athlete who lost his battle with mental illness in 2016.
Not only are students getting valuable experience, but they’re also making the world a better place.
“I’m extremely excited that Torrens has allowed the creation of the in-house agency as a means to create meaningful opportunities for our students. Our first client embodies the university’s overall commitment to the “Here For Good” approach, in that their primary focus is mental health and wellbeing.
To have our students engaged in this space allows them to work towards increasing awareness around mental health, which is such an important issue in today’s society.” – Ayodeji Okuneye (Torrens Business academic and Nanga Mai Co-Founder)
The Chad Robinson Foundation may be the first client, but they will certainly not be the only one.
Ayodeji and Fabricio are aiming to acquire a number of clients within the next two years, so students have access to a range of ongoing opportunities.
Although Nanga Mai serves clients and promotes ethical business, it was created first and foremost for the benefit of students.
The agencies activities so far have demonstrated the power of learning beyond the classroom.
“As lecturers, we constantly bring our real experiences into the classroom, whether through activities, case studies or workshops.
However, it can be somewhat impalpable for students to understand the pressure from some situations, for instance, when a manager denies a budget or an idea and asks for a new suggestion on the spot. The only way to understand all these situations is if you actually live them.
The biggest advantage for our agency students is that they are in a ‘controlled’ environment, meaning that there will be mentors guiding them during those new situations.” – Fabricio Masson.
Ayodeji and Fabricio are now able to see all their hard work paying off for students, who are thrilled to be a part of such an exciting project.
“It was very rewarding to see the students’ enthusiasm and excitement when they met the first client.
The level of engagement and commitment shown only emphasises that we are providing our students with valuable skills. These skills will make them not only employment ready, but will also allow them to succeed in their chosen careers.” – Fabricio Masson.
See here for information about courses in Marketing and Business at Torrens University.
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