Partnership between URI and MikeWorldWide provides unique student internship opportunities

Students in the URI Social Media Research Lab are working side by side with professionals at a leading public relations agency.

KINGSTON, R.I. — Feb. 27, 2023 — A new partnership between the University of Rhode Island’s Harrington School of Communication and Media and MikeWorldWide, a leading global public relations firm, is giving Harrington students real-world experience in social media strategy and analytics. 

Through the partnership, students in Harrington’s Social Media Research Lab are working as an extension of MikeWorldWide’s insights and analytics team, while receiving guidance and support from URI faculty member Joon Kyoung Kim, an assistant professor of public relations who studies organizational use of social media. The students receive full training on MWW’s proprietary tools and processes, while being paid to contribute to a mix of client and new business work for the firm. 

Ammina Kothari, director of the Harrington School, says the goal of the partnership is to provide critical experience for students while reimagining the internship experience. 

“The collaboration with MWW and our Social Media Research Lab will help to bridge the gap between theory and practice for students contemplating a career in communications,” Kothari said. “Thanks to the advent of hybrid and remote work, people attending college can now authentically and meaningfully contribute to the professional workforce and then make informed decisions regarding courses of study and future planning. We are grateful to the team at MikeWorldWide for creating such a substantive opportunity for our students.”

Bret Werner, president of MWW and a URI alumnus in communication studies, says he looks forward to working with URI students and the insights they provide. 

“Today’s most gifted undergraduates possess knowledge and experience that our industry needs to be accessing right now,” said Werner, who also serves on the Harrington School’s advisory council. “MWW has been reinventing the traditional internship experience to give young talent an entry path to PR in a hyper-competitive market as well as leveraging the broadening array of skillsets and insights of Gen Zs getting ready to enter the workforce for our clients.”

The first cohort of Social Media Research Lab students, which includes three undergraduates and one graduate student working up to 20 hours per week, has already started its work with MWW. Projects include cleaning and coding data, trendspotting, conducting media audits, social monitoring, and competitive research. 

“Throughout my time working with MWW, I have been able to learn what it takes to help brands adapt to ever-changing market trends through research and data analysis,” said Gianni Martira, a first-year graduate student and member of the MWW-Social Media Research Lab team from Exeter. “I have learned how to use various tools specific to the realm of market research, as well as make many great relationships along the way. I have learned so much, and I am excited to continue expanding my knowledge through such a great program.”

“Working as a Social Media Research Lab member has allowed me to venture through new territory as someone who is a major in Communication Studies,” added Juan Porres ’23, of Cranston. “It has allowed me to explore the PR/marketing side of the industry. I have learned so much and am enthusiastic about the opportunities this experience could bring to the table for me.”

Kothari says that the MWW partnership is in keeping with the vision and mission of the Social Media Research Lab, which is to create a space where students apply the skills learned in the classroom in the real world. She hopes that this will be the first of many partnerships with other companies—particularly smaller firms that may not have the resources to conduct full social media marketing campaigns of their own. 

“The lab is a great teaching resource, but we can also provide a service,” Kothari said. “A lot of companies need this type of research done, and as a school of communication and media, we see ourselves playing a role in the wider community as well.”

For now, Kothari said she’s pleased to have MWW as the lab’s inaugural corporate partner.

“We are fortunate to have such prominent alumni who are willing to work with us in creating such exciting opportunities,” Kothari said. “For our students to enter the workforce having already worked side-by-side with renowned industry professionals is a tremendous benefit for them and for the Harrington School.”