by Geoff Larcom, Published May 12, 2014
YPSILANTI – Five Eastern Michigan University Students have been accepted into a prestigious Google volunteer program where students will help equip small- and medium-sized businesses and non-profits to compete in the digital age.
In the Google Community Leaders Program, the students will be primarily using various Google resources to help businesses and non-profit organizations throughout southeastern Michigan. The main tools are Google+, Google Apps, Google Analytics and Google AdWords, said Michael Gardner and Phifer Turner, Account Strategists at Google who are helping oversee the program.
The students selected and their hometowns are:
Mahdi Alkadib, Saudi Arabia; Patrick Cotter, Ann Arbor; Joseph Wendl, Southgate, Robert Larson, Wyandotte; and Sean Tseng, Taipei, Taiwan
The students all have previous experience in search optimization and digital marketing. For instance, Alkadib founded a number of non-profit websites in his country, including a popular job website.
“I hope that I can make a remarkable impact in helping the small businesses, especially the disadvantaged ones, in our community to grow and thrive by assisting them in developing their web presence,” he said after being admitted to the program.
Cotter said, “I'd like to be able to bring what I know about the Web to small businesses that have always thought it to be to costly and time consuming to have a strong web presence.”
Larson, a Geek Squad member at Best Buy, said, “I hope our team can make a meaningful difference in the community. I would like to show people that technology should be embraced and not feared or disregarded.”
The idea for the Google Community Leaders Program originated in New Orleans several years ago, when another Google employee, Jen Holland, pinpointed a significant need for digital literacy in the small business and non-profit community there, Gardner said. The need was particularly acute after Hurricane Katrina, when significant rebuilding needed to occur.
Gardner said the program has recently expanded to several cities, including Kansas City and Provo, Utah. This is the program’s first year in the Detroit area, he said.
Eastern is one of four Michigan universities Google is partnering with. The others are Wayne State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the University of Michigan.
The students will partner with a variety of organizations, including the Michigan Nonprofit Association, the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council and the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce.
The 16 students in the program will each have a Google mentor. In addition to educating metro Detroit area businesses and non-profits, they will engage in workshops, professional development and gain exposure to career opportunities, Gardner said.
The program lasts an academic year. Students will work from fall 2014 through the following spring. Expenses are covered during the program.
The selection process was rigorous, requiring students to submit written applications and undergo interviews with Google.
Over the years, the EMU College of Business’ efforts in digital marketing have resulted in strong placements in Google, Quicken Loans, Apple, and multiple leading digital agencies across the country, said Bud Gibson a professor at EMU and creator of the University’s search marketing program.
The college’s annual Search Marketing Workshop, which is also run by Gibson, has attained regional prominence, he said.
Gibson noted the accelerating affect the Google program likely would have on the students’ future.
“We’re giving very qualified and hard-working students, who are not coming from elite backgrounds, the opportunity to transform their careers,” he said.
Turner said that one reason EMU was chosen for the program was the degree of preparation Eastern students displayed. “Professor Gibson made this really easy for us to partner with EMU,” he said. “They were very qualified students.”