At EdVenture Partners, the partnerships we have between our stakeholders — our clients on one side, and the universities, professors and students on the education side — are so pivotal to our organization, we based our name on it. And, if partnerships are at the core of our DNA, then our Project Specialist (PS) role is the glue that holds it all together. Our PS team members are in the trenches with our faculty/student teams from Day One of a program through the final awards. Their duties include driving deadlines, answering questions via daily communication with numerous teams and individuals, and ensuring high-quality final products.
We thought it would be revealing to get a peek into the lives, professional accomplishments and colorful personalities of our valued PS employees with this blog series. Because even though EVP works hard to bring serious learning opportunities to our student teams, we are also a pretty fun bunch!
All About… Project Specialist, Brandi
Former EVP winning student turns one of her most “rewarding” college experiences into a full-time gig, coaching others to victory
Tell us about your educational and professional background before EVP.
I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Arkansas Little Rock with a Bachelor of Business Administration. My degree was in marketing with a minor in advertising and public relations, and I secured a Certificate of Proficiency in Professional Sales. During my time in college, I participated in a few extra activities such as advertising for the Student Marketing Association, ambassador for the College of Business, and winning third place in an “Elevator Pitch” contest. Throughout college I worked at Best Buy as a computer nerd, and after graduation, I whisked myself off to the most magical place on earth, Walt Disney World. During the Disney College Program, I worked as a Space Ranger in Tomorrowland selling light sabers and Mickey Mouse plush toys, trading pins and “creating magic.”
Did you participate in an EVP program as a student? And if so, what’s the difference being on this side?
Oh yes, which I could never forget as it was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my college career. I was the PR and Advertising Coordinator for the AT&T Brand Campus Challenge where we were challenged to increase brand awareness and knowledge of AT&T’s products and services amongst students on our college campus. The icing on the cake was traveling to Dallas, Texas, to AT&T’s world headquarters and winning first place! (*hair flip*)
Luckily for me, with first-hand experience participating in a program, I try my best to navigate the Project Specialist role with an in-depth analysis of how students may perceive my messages, the content, and most importantly, I make sure to show them my dedication. I also don’t lie to them — right off the bat, I always tell them that this is going to be hard, and there will be unforeseen challenges. But if you put the effort in, it is impossible for this experience to be anything but rewarding.
How do you spend your coffee or lunch breaks? How do you spend your free time?
Oddly enough, one of the hardest things to remember when working from home is to even take a lunch break (yes, I know, crazy right?). When I do take lunch breaks, I always wind down by hanging out with my dog, Reba, making a quick meal and watching a TV show. In my free time, I have a few things on my docket whether it’s playing video games, reading a Harlan Coben or James Patterson novel, playing poker, or pushing my limits by signing up for random challenges like Spartan Races or mountain biking (mountains in Florida?! not really, but shhh).
Have you had any winning teams? What were their biggest strengths, or what do you feel put them over the top?
I’ve been with the company for four semesters, and I’ve had finalists all four semesters. I’ve worked on a program for Acura as well as both international and domestic versions of Peer to Peer. Out of the four semesters of Peer to Peer, I’ve had the honor of guiding three first-place teams, other placements and honorable mentions.
There is one piece of advice every semester I start my conversations with: “Be hyper-focused on a relevant local topic and direct plan of action.” When I think about the successful teams I’ve worked with, all of them have had a very clear vision of the local topic they were addressing and a well thought-out and specific course of action, whether it was creating a board game, an online tool or fostering social inclusion.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your job?
Honestly, the most rewarding aspect is watching students grow as individuals and recognize their talents, skills and strengths. There have been countless times when a student will participate in a program, not knowing what to expect and doubting their abilities. And by the end of it, they have proven to themselves their capabilities and even found a passion they didn’t know existed. This is especially shown when you see campaigns continue beyond the scope of the program. Experiential learning provides students the opportunity to gain real-world experience and confidence before entering the workforce after college — it’s really neat to be a part of that.
Is there anything that has come along with your EVP Project Specialist role that you didn’t expect?
Throughout my time here at EdVenture Partners, I’ve been surprised by how much I have grown as an individual. I have gained more confidence with my written and verbal communication as well as having more faith in my instincts.
You and each of your fellow Project Specialists manage up to 20 teams at a time. Do you have any productivity or time management hacks that you’d like to share?
I personally use a note cube where I write one of my to-do tasks on a square of paper each, and then I organize the squares of paper in order of importance and timeliness. As I complete the task, I recycle the square of paper which provides a physical reminder that I’m making progress for the day. Lastly, if there is nothing highly urgent on my squares, I try to follow the rule, “If it takes less than five minutes, then do it now,” in order to avoid a pile of small tasks and potential oversights.
What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you (fun, random trivia, or maybe a guilty pleasure food, TV show or similar)?
I’m a huge nerd trying to act normal, for starters. I love playing video games and board games as they provide a challenge to develop different strategies and skills each play-through. I also enjoy playing soccer and softball, and fishing, whether it is in a small pond or a large lake. Last but not least, one of my life dreams is to play in the World Series of Poker!