Sandage Social Media Lab positions advertising students to help local clients

Sandage Social Media Lab
Marisa Peacock (left), lecturer in advertising, leads a workshop with students as part of the new Sandage Social Media Lab. (Photo by Isabella Pennebaker, photography intern.)


In a new program called the Sandage Social Media Lab, advertising majors are receiving tailored training, followed by the opportunity to consult with real clients. 

After taking a set of digital advertising workshops through the lab, students will be prepared to assist select University of Illinois units and Champaign-Urbana organizations with their communications and could develop and manage their digital and social media advertising strategies.

The lab was established this fall in a partnership between the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising and the Hub for Brand Innovation and Advertising Technology in the College of Media. 

Professor Mike Yao, head of the Sandage Department of Advertising, said the new lab is an investment in experiential learning opportunities for students and will encourage experimentation and “lots of tinkering through trial and error.” 

Marisa PeacockAs part of the program, Marisa Peacock (pictured at right), lecturer and program chair of internships and experiential learning in the Sandage Department of Advertising, presented eight weekly social media workshops this semester that were open to all advertising students. Topics covered social media storytelling, tracking analytics, strategic planning, and more.

In addition to the workshops at the lab, students have worked on their portfolios, shared their internship experiences, and discussed careers in advertising. 

Isabelle Downey, a junior in advertising, said she has been looking for more opportunities to explore the advertising world and to learn about others’ experiences. She said the Sandage Social Media Lab provides exactly what she is looking for and she finds it beneficial to spend time with others to brainstorm and talk about work experiences. 

“It’s always an open discussion and everyone has an equal opportunity to take the floor and share what they think about the topic,” Downey said. 

Alexis Carter, a junior studying advertising and public relations, has been working on social media marketing tactics and brand strategy, and creating a portfolio. She said the lab encourages students to get out of their comfort zones and to learn more about media outside of advertising. 

“In the spring, students will be able to participate in a comprehensive and project-based environment where they can receive valuable digital and social media advertising training,” Peacock said. 

Students can participate in progressively advanced roles through the lab as they gain more academic and professional experiences.

Student in Social Media LabFreshmen are encouraged to join as members by attending workshops and community events and collecting activity badges. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors can join as apprentices or associates to assist subject matter experts, receive fellowships, and contribute to community projects. Juniors and seniors can be considered student consults who participate in paid work and present work or case studies. 

The Sandage Social Media Lab has also been engaging with the local community by participating in the Brand Hub Community Workshop series, sponsored by the Champaign Public Library, Urbana Free Library, and Lodgic Everyday Community. Peacock has presented on social media strategy, audience analysis, and managing an online community. Yao has presented on protecting privacy, identity, and brand reputation. 

Peacock said the workshops allow the advertising department to share their expertise and help local businesses apply meaningful strategies to thrive in an online environment. 

“In January, advertising students and faculty will join the Brand Hub and its partners to offer one-on-one consulting to local businesses,” she said. 

See details about a Q&A with the Brand Hub at the Champaign Public Library on January 27, 2022.

To learn more about the lab, contact Marisa Peacock at To learn more about participating as a client, contact Susan Muirhead from the Brand Hub at

—Story by Da Yeon Eom, communications and marketing intern. Photos by Isabella Pennebaker, photography intern.