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GOVERNMENT / THE ELITE -
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FBI turns to UC Berkeley for help softening its image

Posted in the database on Thursday, November 24th, 2005 @ 09:57:48 MST (1342 views)
by Kristin Bender    Inside Bay Area  

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Haas students developing marketing, recruitment plan to rid bureau of stodgy stereotype

The FBI is trying to overcome its conservative image to recruit more diverse employees, and it is using students at one of the world's most liberal campuses to get the mission accomplished.

As part of a class project, three dozen students from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business are hammering out a marketing and recruitment plan for the nearly 100-year-old bureau, perceived by some as an "old boys club."

"One of their objectives is to think outside the box, do something different and get rid of their stereotypical image (of being a conservative agency)," said student Sabine Zimmerman, 21.

The FBI looked to the University of California, Berkeley — whose students are mostly female and more than 40 percent Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — to diversify its pool of applicants and find a way to get to "Generation Y," the 18- to 24-year-old age group.

"You see FBI agents portrayed on TV and in the movies and it definitely is that middle-age white male (in the roles). That is definitely not what the FBI is about anymore," said Michelle Woodland, a program facilitator with EdVenture Partners, the Internet-based consultants working with the FBI and students on the project.

Although applications to the FBI are "way up," Woodland said, the bureau is not attracting women and minorities.

"They get a ton of people with law enforcement backgrounds because working for the FBI is really the pinnacle of being in that profession," Woodland said. "But that's not the only candidate they need. In fact, those (people) are not being given preference."

Another goal of the class project is to let UC students know that experience in engineering, foreign languages, computer science and even mathematics and history are critical skills for an FBI special agent or crime scene investigator.

Chrissy Byron and Zimmerman, students in the marketing class, never thought much about a career workingwith the FBI because "it seems like one of those jobs that they have to come to you, but really you can just go online and apply," Byron said.

But the project has given them another career option.

Students from nine schools around the country, including San Jose State University, are participating in the recruitment effort.

What do the students get out of the recruiting project? Real-world experience and honest feedback, Byron said.

With a $2,500 budget from the FBI, students will learn what it takes to research, implement and evaluate a marketing plan. They learn about advertising by creating fliers and T-shirts using the slogan "Investigate Your Potential" and about how to reach out to the media by designing news releases.

At the end of the class, students will be evaluated on the success of their campaign and the affect it had on Generation Y.

"It's really difficult to reach that group because they are not watching TV or reading newspapers," Woodland said. "The students really want to figure out how to reach them."

This is not the first time a government agency has come to UC Berkeley looking for help with recruitment. The Central Intelligence Agency participated in a similar program on campus last fall. It was not well publicized.

"There was a little hesitation on the part of the professor because of the history of the campus," Woodland said. "They were a little worried about protests on campus and thought there might be some sort of backlash having the CIA on campus, but their concerns were a little unfounded."



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