DMEF Helps Put Students to Work

For more than 30 years, the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation has played matchmaker for college students looking to get into direct marketing and corporations looking to employ young talent.

The foundation sponsors between 15 and 20 seminars a year for 1,000 college students and 250 professors. It also offers a summer internship program that puts students to work for some of the largest direct marketing companies in the country.

Laurie Spar, vice president of the DMEF, New York, said the foundation provides a service for both the students and the industry.

“This is one of the best public-relations tools that the industry has,” Spar said. “We are teaching and exposing kids to the business, teaching them ethical business standards and providing some career guidance. At the same time, we are producing new talent for the business — and with some of our professor-oriented programs, we are initiating research in direct marketing.”

Established in 1965, the foundation has ties to the Direct Marketing Association and its members, but it is a separate entity from the DMA and is funded through contributions from DMA members and a handful of individual contributors.

“We also rely heavily on the DMA and its members for advice and to participate as guest lecturers,” Spar said.

Half of the students who take part in the seminars stay in direct marketing, she said.

Mike Fitzpatrick, who attended a DMEF course in 1990 in Denver, is director of consumer marketing at Leman Publications, Denver, a subsidiary of Rodale Press.

“The opportunity it afforded me was giving a wide-eyed college student the chance to learn about direct marketing from the people who developed many of those theories themselves,” said Fitzpatrick, who has since gone back to lecture at some of the foundation's programs.

Businesses that hire students from the program also are impressed.

“I think the students get a big leg up on the competition,” said Peter Hodge, director of planning and promotion at American Data Consultants, Stamford, CT. The provider of outdoor and recreational-related data marketing information hired a student who attended a DMEF program a year ago.

“Because of her experience there, she hit the ground running when she got here. Her learning curve was probably a third of what a normal entry-level employee's would have been,” Hodge said.

Among the foundation's courses is the Collegiate Institute, a four-day intensive course in direct marketing taught by practitioners. It is a scholarship program given several times a year in different cities for college juniors and seniors as well as graduate students. Thirty students attend each session.

“The purpose is to fill a gap and train them in the basics,” Spar said. “We want to interest them in a career and attract and create a stream of talent to keep coming in because of the industry's growth.”

There are two agency-sponsored seminars each year. For two days, these seminars put 20 students to work on a campaign for an agency's clients. DMEF also offers two college days for students to attend the DMA's Annual Fall Conference and another DMA-sponsored event.

DMEF also sponsors the Collegiate Echo Competition, which gives students a chance to work on a campaign for a nationally recognized company. The client has the option to use all or parts of the students' work.

For professors, the foundation publishes the Journal of Interactive Marketing and runs a seminar similar to the Collegiate Institute that demonstrates how to better teach the theories of direct marketing. At the fall show, 100 professors are invited to share their academic research with direct marketers.

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