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UHV students help nonprofit connect to new generations

When the University of Houston-Victoria School of Business Administration was contacted by a business-focused nonprofit organization looking for help creating a social media plan, Jun Yang saw an opportunity.

Jun Yang
Jun Yang

Yang, a UHV associate professor of marketing, turned the request from the Victoria-based National Association of Steel Pipe Distributors into a project for her “Electronic Marketing” undergraduate class.

“At UHV, we always are encouraging our students to be involved in the community and share their skills to help others succeed,” Yang said. “This was an amazing opportunity for our students to use their knowledge and skills to help others while also gaining real-world experience.”

Susannah Porr
Susannah Porr

NASPD is a nonprofit organization focusing on legislative and economic issues that impact the steel industry. It was founded in 1975 and moved from Houston to Victoria 15 years ago. The NASPD has over 250 member companies. While it was originally a U.S.-based organization, it now has members in Europe, China, Russia and Africa.

Before approaching UHV for help with its social media strategies, the organization reached out to area marketing consultants. However, the prices quoted from the consultants were more than the group could afford, NASPD Executive Director Susannah Porr said.

“We approached UHV about getting some of their students to help us rethink our social media strategy,” she said. “In the past, we’ve connected with our members through email. But a new generation is coming in, and they use social media platforms much more often. We didn’t want to miss out on connecting with the next group of industry leaders.”

Miranda Southerland
Miranda Southerland

The students were divided into groups, and each group worked to create a social media plan for the organization. Miranda Southerland, a junior from Katy, and Siara Washington, a junior from Houston, were part of the winning team. Their team spent time researching the organization as well as looking at similar groups’ social media accounts to find which techniques work best.

“Social media is such a popular means of connecting,” Washington said. “We looked at everything that might be interesting to the public or the companies the NASPD serves and created example social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. We used those pages to help the organization see how its name and message could be shared.” 

Putting the project together was an exciting experience for her and the other students, Southerland said.

Siara Washington
Siara Washington

“It was like a glimpse into my future career,” she said. “I was able to see what kind of work I am preparing for and get firsthand experience helping a nonprofit connect with its audience. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I’m glad our work is having a positive impact in the community.”

The top two teams have been invited to the NASPD’s Feb. 16 Annual Convention in Houston. The first-place team will receive an award, and both teams will be invited to meet with industry representatives and network during the convention with resumés in hand, Porr said.

“Originally, we only planned to recognize the first-place team, but because the top two teams were so good, we felt we had to recognize them both,” Porr said. “We wanted to shift our perspective to reach a younger generation, and UHV’s students helped us to do that. Because of their hard work, we are able to better bridge the gap between current and future industry leaders.”