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MJ-School Students Shine in New UNC-Lenovo Global Internship Program

June 17, 2016
Hussman School of Media and Journalism

Five University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism students contributed this spring to a record-breaking public relations and social media performance around Lenovo’s signature technology showcase event, Tech World, through internships with stops in San Francisco, Beijing and Lenovo’s U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The students were the first to participate in the innovative UNC-Lenovo Tech World Global Intern Program, a brand new initiative inspired by a dinner meeting in Beijing between Chancellor Carol L. Folt and Lenovo Chairman and CEO Yuanqing Yang in January 2016. The program was quickly brought to life by MJ-School Dean Susan King and alumnus Jeff Shafer, the vice president of global corporate communications for Lenovo, and their teams. It builds on the close working relationship between the school and Lenovo that has included student, faculty and staff visits to Beijing over the past several years.

Shafer, who also serves on the school’s Board of Advisers, was instrumental in establishing the partnership and securing $50,000 to pay travel, lodging and stipends for 10 interns in addition to compensation from Lenovo for the paid internships.

The group included the MJ-School students and five other UNC students from units across campus including business, information and library science, computer science and English. The students worked primarily on social media, video, logistics, data analytics, event management and press releases for the event. Each intern was assigned at least one dedicated mentor to guide them through the entire internship experience.

“This was an amazing deep dive for our students in global marketing, public relations, advertising and social media,” said Susan King, dean of the MJ-School. “Chancellor Folt, Mr. Yang, our own Jeff Shafer and the Lenovo communications team, including our alumnae Holly Zhang and Kristy Fair, have given our students the kind of immersive experience we value so highly in our school.”

Three of the MJ-School students joined a team that traveled to Lenovo’s Beijing headquarters prior to joining the Tech World event in San Francisco on June 9. The group included junior strategic communication major Zack Green, junior business journalism major Jonathan Morris and first-year master’s student Lauren Haller. They were able to observe and compare the working cultures in Lenovo’s U.S. and China headquarters while working with Chinese colleagues prepping for Tech World. They also met with Ethan Robertson, a 2014 MJ-School alumnus now living and working in China, who recently landed an internship with Lenovo.

Two MJ-School students, junior advertising majors Will Schoeffler and Angelica Ortiz, remained in the United States for the lead-up to the event.

Schoeffler worked with Lenovo’s global social media content manager on a “global road trip” pre-event campaign to build buzz. For his part, Schoeffler and another intern drove a Tech World-branded Jeep mounted with GoPro cameras from Raleigh, North Carolina, to San Francisco. The interns created video content for social media during stops along the way, including at the peach-shaped water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina, from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon and at a show in Las Vegas, among other highlights. Schoeffler, who also starred in a series of personal vlogs documenting the trip, said he learned how businesses use social media, just how much work goes into it and how paid media affects the visibility of social campaigns.

“I learned a ton that will help my career, and I had some amazing life experiences,” he said. Shafer called the 2016 Tech World event the single biggest and most successful event ever from a public relations and social media standpoint for Lenovo. “Our brilliant team of interns from UNC had a huge impact,” he said. “They brought great energy and enthusiasm, but moreover, great work, performance, contributions and results.”

The global road trip campaign generated 1.9 million social media engagements and 6.3 million video views via YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. Interns also supported Lenovo’s first ever Snapchat campaign and generated nearly 40,000 views. The students were part of the effort that drew more than 10,000 pieces of press coverage and saw a Lenovo product, Moto Z, trend worldwide on Twitter. Overall, Tech World 2016 became Lenovo’s number 1 all-time 30-day social media engagement event — topping last year’s Tech World event by 60 percent.

“The UNC interns had a tangible impact on our ability to deliver on all of this,” said Shafer.

The students also drew the attention of Lenovo CEO Yang, who gave them a shout-out on Twitter and complimented their work. “This was a great program,” he said. “We should do more with UNC. We should engage more. We should try to hire them.”

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