Student-run Agency Moves to Hubbard School

The School welcomes Backpack to Murphy Hall

Backpack, the University of Minnesota's student-run ad/PR agency, plans to expand its successful model of training students to work with external clients. The expansion starts by moving the Backpack headquarters from the College of Liberal Arts’ Office of Institutional Advancement (CLA/OIA) to the Hubbard School, with a goal of continuing to build Backpack as an independent student-run agency and recognized student organization.

Director Elisia Cohen, Backpack Senior Adviser Jennifer Johnson, Hubbard School professional faculty, and Board of Advocates Chair Jorg Pierach (B.A. ’89) will work with CLA/OIA to create a seamless move and assume primary leadership roles in the organization.

Backpack started as CLAgency eight years ago, as an effort to provide professional experience and portfolio samples for CLA students. During the first six years, its only client was CLA and student opportunities focused on creating content for the departments within the College of Liberal Arts. In 2018, CLAgency reorganized to include external clients, and soon after rebranded as Backpack. This provided more meaningful opportunities for students and more connection with brands and services inside and outside of the University.

During 2021-2022, nearly 30 students will receive more than $68,000 in stipend support for their training and work with external clients. The Hubbard School hopes to sustain this program to support the agency’s training and professional development programs with fundraising to match the income it receives from external client partnerships.

The vision for Backpack won't change: A model for young professionals to gain valuable experience while providing clients with valuable work. It will continue to be student-run, with leadership and communication tools changing each semester, composed of a diverse set of majors and minors. Students will use their skills to collaborate and provide meaningful, people-centered communications to reach a Gen Z audience.  

If your small business or non-profit is interested in learning about ways the Backpack agency can offer strategic communication services, contact Jennifer Johnson at joh02016@umn.edu.