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Tuesday, December 5, 2023
December 5 , 2023

Experience matters: In conversation with student org Orange Umbrella

Finding jobs as a college student can be difficult when companies often prefer candidates with years of experience in their field. However, at Orange Umbrella at the University of Miami (UM) students run their own business right here on campus.

Orange Umbrella is a student-led consultancy firm based in the UM School of Communication offering services in the areas of public relations (PR), social media, advertising and graphic design.

The Miami Hurricane spoke with three Orange Umbrella members: senior PR major Isabella Sosa, senior PR major Sophia Carter and managing director Melissa Jane (MJ) Barnes, to speak about the company and its impact on the UM and larger Miami community.

The students in Orange Umbrella gather outside of The School of Communication in the fall of 2023.
The students in Orange Umbrella gather outside of The School of Communication in the fall of 2023. Photo credit: Orange Umbrella

Where did the name Orange Umbrella come from?

BARNES: Our first semester in spring of 2017, we had no name. We were just a bunch of ragtag students and our first project was to brand ourselves. Our creative students worked on a bunch of concepts presented to the dean, but it’s a derivative of the beautiful umbrellas that are dotted around campus. They also are representative of the fact that we offer many different services to our clients.

What has changed since Orange Umbrella started?

CARTER: We have double the number of people now than we used to have and the variety of work that we do has grown.

BARNES: We are much more confident in our abilities and competent in how we operate and we have gotten a lot more high profile clients like working with Soho House and our project for the Super Bowl. We’re about to start our seventh year and the amount of requests have changed and grown along with seeing more repeat clients as well as referrals.

What does your work process look like?

SOSA: It basically depends on what the client wants. They’ll come [into] the first meeting, tell us what they’re looking for from us [and] we give them a debrief of everything, all the services we offer. And based on that, they’ll tell us exactly what they want and we go from there.

How has Orange Umbrella helped you professionally?

SOSA: It’s been really cool being able to see how the stuff we learn in class gets translated into the real world. I feel like the way that we work is very much like a mirror of how a real consultancy would work. Orange Umbrella has this really cool, big, extensive network of alumni and we have a lot of internal programs that set us up and match us up with certain alumni based on our interest. so we can meet with them. A lot of times that leads to internships.

How does the company face difficulties?

SOSA: We’re very on top of everything and we’re usually thinking about things like weeks or months ahead. So, if there is some kind of issue, we are always ahead of it.

Who do you go to when you, as students, need advice?

SOSA: MJ. She supervises everything. Any help you need, you can reach out to her. She usually will make sure to edit and revise everything. She’s on top of every project. She’s really just there to guide people, which is really cool because of course she’ll help you, but she’s very much like, trying to make you figure it out on your own too.

What do you think makes Orange Umbrella special?

SOSA: I think coming to class here every day, it’s a very welcoming environment, and everyone is super nice. Everyone’s really driven and working towards the same goal. [We all] want to be better, and that’s really inspiring. And everyone lifts each other up too. It’s really unique as well.

With the rise of AI, how will Orange Umbrella stand out?

SOSA: I think there’ll always be a difference between something that AI does versus humans. There’s no way for an AI to get those kinds of human connections and humanity that I think we pride ourselves on, especially in terms of design and PR to make relationships. I don’t know what the future AI looks like, but to have that, there are certain elements of humanity that you can’t really get an AI. And I feel like that’s what really connects people.

What does the future of Orange Umbrella look like?

BARNES: There are great expectations ahead in the future of creating pipelines for people to connect in terms of talent and creating a larger network of students and alumni that support each other.

For interested students, applications open on Oct. 24. The organization plans to post on social media platforms like Instagram leading up to the application release date.

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