Exhausting, challenging, rewarding. These three words summarize my semester as a research director for the Matewan Community Branding Initiative. From the moment that I saw this small town in southern West Virginia, I knew that I was going to love creating a new brand that would help give an identity to this historic destination.
The first thing I noticed was the kindness of the people who live there. Everyday, I reminded myself of how amazing these people were and how great it would be to see their positive reactions once the branding plan was complete. The second thing I noticed about Matewan was its great potential. The feeling you get when walking down the streets of the town is something that can’t be described. You can sense the history, the excitement, and the energy that flows through the veins of this historic landmark, and that is something I wanted to share with other people.
Working on the research aspect that guided this project was nerve-wracking and stressful, but I learned a lot and made a great friend along the way. Courtney Bartsch, my fellow research director, was a great partner and was always there for me when I needed her. I could always count on her to produce quality work, and I never doubted her commitment to this project. Together, we found out what key audiences believed were Matewan’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, while learning about the beast called “research” and getting to know each other.
Me (right) and Courtney Bartsch exploring the Matewan Depot
Courtney was not the only person I became friends with throughout this process. In fact, I love all of my teammates. This experience has brought all of us together. Through the stress, tears, and laughter, we have all learned and grown together. and that is something I will always be thankful for. I have a new family. My fellow students, Dr. Colistra, and the Matewan Community Branding Committee have helped me reach my full potential, and I cannot wait to showcase all that I have learned in my future career. I am a pretty emotional person. To be honest, my teammates have seen me cry a few times this semester but I can’t help it. I become emotionally attached to not only people, but about my work and doing things for a great cause. With that said, there is no greater cause than transforming Matewan into a tourist destination. It has so much to offer history buffs and outdoor adventurers. Don’t believe me? Check out the brand new website we created this semester!
As we showcased the work we did for the Matewan Community Branding Committee, the funders of the Benedum Grant, the West Virginia HUB, and the administration, faculty, and staff of the Reed College of Media, I am happy to say that I feel as though I have accomplished something important and contributed to a cause bigger than myself. Was I nervous? Of course! But I do know this— despite how nervous I was when I stood up with my peers to present the results of this project, I was standing alongside nine other people who knew exactly how I felt and have understood how I have felt throughout this entire process. These are the only other people in the world who know exactly what I have been through and have grown with me. For this reason and for this talented group of individuals, I will always be thankful.
To the next group of students who take on the task of creating a brand for a small town in West Virginia, be proud! Don’t be afraid to take risks. Work hard and all of the tears and stress will be worth it. I promise.
Thanks for the memories, Matewan.