A portrait of Kevin Nguyen
VCU alum Kevin Nguyen believes, "We have to bring more to the table than just pointing out issues. We should bring forth ideas about how to improve things too." (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Meet-a-Ram: Kevin Nguyen

Brandcenter alum is a strategic planner and one of the creators of The Inturnship.

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Editor’s note: Meet-a-Ram is a VCU News series about the students, employees and graduates who make Virginia Commonwealth University such a dynamic place to live, work and study.

In this episode we meet Kevin Nguyen, a 2022 graduate of the Brandcenter, a 2020 graduate of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences and a strategic planner at The Martin Agency, who worked with seven other early career young adults in advertising to create The Inturnship program to offer mentorship, education and real-world experiences to some recent graduates. The program was also meant to help small- to medium-size businesses find affordable marketing solutions.

Some of the team that created The Inturnship program lost their jobs in advertising in 2020, and you and your VCU undergraduate classmates ran Camp ADventure for students who needed training in advertising during the pandemic. How did The Inturnship grow out of these programs and issues?

2020 influenced a lot of people, which sparked and created a lot of initiatives that involved giving back. A lot of it was education based, but not a lot of those programs translated into full-time career opportunities, which is where The Inturnship comes in.

After the initial Camp ADventure program ended, we sent out a survey asking the participants whether they were successful in getting a job. And although about half said yes, the other half said they were still unsure of what their next steps were – they wanted a bit more room to learn with mentorship.

I worked really closely with senior creatives at companies like Google and fellow VCU alum Megan Watt to get the ball rolling on The Inturnship. Then we officially launched in November of 2020, and essentially had two to three months of promotion to get our name out there

Why did you call the program The Inturnship?

We created The Inturnship (spelled with a U) with the message of “Embracing the Detour,” basically saying to everyone, “If you don't have a full-time job now, it's not the end of the world. And sometimes the journey of the job hunt can be just as meaningful as the destination.”

So along the way, The Inturnship is there to alleviate some of the financial stress by letting our “inturns” work with real clients, get more curated professional mentorship, and ultimately, helping them get a full-time job offer.

All of the clients that we had were paying clients, and we budgeted and scoped the work to make sure that the inturns who were part of our program were getting paid through freelancing contracts. For those who were not working on full-time client work, we placed them with mentors to receive direct mentorship and learn about the advertising industry.

This way, when our inturns start working, they can go into a full-time position, or even a paid internship, with the skills needed to negotiate salaries and titles, and will even have the ability to leverage what we’re paying them as a base.

Any standout moments from the experience of leading The Inturnship?

Seeing everyone start their careers – from our inturns to the people who have helped create the program – go off and work at amazing programs and companies has been so cool. People have gone off to work at Google, Droga5, Martin Agency, and so many others, and knowing how supportive everyone is, not just the founding members but the inturns who have come through and have left the program, has just been so fulfilling, and it feels like we really built our own family.

One of the coolest things was seeing a person that I looked up to before I applied to the Brandcenter, seeing her name on the program as a mentor. So seeing the reach of The Inturnship has been incredible. The way that people have come across us and have found this program on their own, whether it's through LinkedIn or through Instagram or just through word of mouth, reminds everyone that – like this program – this industry is small but it's also incredibly supportive. So, I think The Inturnship is a testament to that type of mentality and it's really refreshing to see that.

One of the most surreal moments that I’ll never forget is receiving the email that The Inturnship won a Silver Anthem Award, beating out huge brands like Pepsi and Snapchat. The Anthem Awards are organized by the Webbys as a way to celebrate purpose-driven work, and seeing us get internationally recognized was so surreal. I was so excited I literally called everyone screaming!

Is The Inturnship continuing?

Yes! We officially became an LLC, so we're still actively recruiting participants, and we just brought on four new clients. We're growing, and we don't plan on stopping anytime soon.

What was your favorite college class?

My favorite graduate class was called Persuasion with Peter Coughter. He literally wrote the book on presentation skills. It’s called “The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business.”

It's an amazing read, because it’s informative but also very funny. Peter is an incredible professor. The way that class is led, we can almost talk about whatever we want, so long as it pertains to a specific topic. He critiques us on our stage presence, annunciation and pace, and our overall ability to convince or persuade the class into agreeing with an idea. He reminds everyone about the importance of storytelling. That class really is so much fun. Storytelling is the backbone of the advertising industry, and Peter Coughter knows that better than anyone.

My favorite professor in my VCU undergraduate studies was Jessica Collins. I still love her. Jessica has always been my biggest supporter. I think everything that I've done during my undergrad experience, and since then, I've been able to do because of her support. She's always been a cheerleader, for not just me, but for all of the VCU Advertising students. She is the first one to know about everything that I've been up to. She's awesome.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

The Graduate Student and Faculty Research Center on the fourth floor of the library is my favorite spot. The architecture and design of the area is stunning because it's so open and the windows let in so much natural light.

A quote that sticks with you?

“What matters isn't if people are good or bad. What matters is if they're trying to be better today than they were yesterday.”

I always think about that quote because it reminds me to always treat people with grace, and to know that there is always room for improvement. Whether it's personal growth, or professional growth, nothing is ever finite, and we can always strive to be better.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received? Or the worst?

“Don't find problems, find solutions.” I think it's important to be able to find problems and raise red flags as you see them, but we have to bring more to the table than just pointing out issues. We should bring forth ideas about how to improve things too. Being proactive and finding a solution, as well as ways to bring it to life, will always go a lot further.

What motivates you?

Being able to have an impact. One of the biggest motivators for me is knowing that I could have potentially created something that positively impacted someone else's life, no matter how big or small the impact was.

Why did you choose to attend VCU?

The people. I chose to attend VCU because I knew that the people here were going to be creative, smart and inspiring, and I wanted to be surrounded by that type of energy. The people at VCU are the type of people that make you want to not only be better, but do better too.