By Jenna Purcell
Arts Reporter

“Do smokers listen to Swedish music?” Michelle Medina pondered aloud during a weekly meeting she attends as an intern for UC Santa Cruz’s Arts & Lectures (A&L) department.

“Because if they do,” Medina continued, talking to an amused, focused group of fellow interns, “we should definitely put up fliers at all the downtown smoke shops.”

This seemingly strange discussion highlights the vital role that students are playing in the marketing of A&L events.

Lily Mandel, A&L’s marketing and operations coordinator, chuckled while listening to the group’s tactics for attracting audiences to the remainder of A&L’s fall events, which happen to include a Swedish guitar concert.

“This is why I need you guys!” she reminded the group with a smile.

The program facilitating such a student connection to the business end of this campus department is the Arts & Lectures Marketing Internship Program. It gives A&L staff a vital, distinct perspective — that of the student — while answering a call from undergraduates thirsty for marketing experience and responsibility.

Fourth-year Mandy Wentz explained the roles and duties of A&L interns.

“We strive to market to the campus community about Arts & Lectures,” Wentz said. “We take questionnaires and do research on them. We look at our data to find the best places to market, identify the areas we’re not reaching, and go from there.”

For Mandel, the fulfillment of these duties is integral to the success of A&L’s campus publicity.

“Besides the assistance with various projects, a student outlet allows us to provide campus audiences with high-quality arts and performing arts that students would be interested in,” said Mandel, who is one of only two non-student members of the A&L department. “Without the interns, we would have a lot of trouble figuring out how to engage students.”

Jeanette Pilak, director of the A&L department, said that A&L learns from the interns.

“The UCSC student viewpoint not only comes from the six interns, but from the information exchange throughout their marketing committee process,” Pilak said. “This two-way communication is critical to Arts & Lectures. It influences programming decisions that include which artists to invite and what activities those artists should bring to campus.”

All of A&L’s interns are upperclassmen majoring in economics. Interns can volunteer with A&L or take the program as a five-credit course.

Fourth-year Jess Lum explained why she decided to become an intern.

“Let’s face it, it looks good on a résumé,” Lum said. “It’s great to be able to say that you’ve had some hands-on experience in marketing, that you’ve actually worked with an organization and understand the inner workings of [it].”

Lum also feels that the internship environment fostered educational growth, as it gives students access to the expertise of an experienced staff.

“It’s a great experience because there’s so much guidance,” Lum said. “We get a lot of help, which is wonderful for future reference. It’s a nice baby step. We’ll actually know what we’re doing when we go into marketing [after college].”

Wentz said that despite the guided, assistive structure, the freedom allowed to interns holds great appeal.

“It’s very autonomous field study,” Wentz said. “We study what we want to study, research what we want, we make our own questionnaires, and figure out what we want from them. Being able to decide what we want to do and what our goals are will really help us in the future.”

Pilak said the sense of personal motivation evident in Wentz’s approach is a crucial ingredient in making the interns’ experiences successful.

“The students who apply are always pretty motivated. Besides the obvious economics students, we often get [interns who are] music majors or musicians who want to learn the business of their art,” Pilak said. “This internship broadens the horizons of interns from all backgrounds. The variety of artists, exposure to different cultures, and the marketing supporting [Arts & Lectures] performances really gives them a richer understanding of performing arts.”