A donation of $500,000 to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) from George P. Johnson (GPJ), a marketing agency under the Project Worldwide network, will allow for a new learning lab within the William and Linda Frost Center for Research and Innovation set to open Fall 2022.

GPJ partnered with CAFES for the last 10 years to help enhance the Experience Industry Management (EIM) program. The donation will go directly toward the Experience Innovation Lab (EIL). The lab will offer students a space for design and marketing projects. The lab is part of a collaboration between GPJ and CAFES to improve the Experience Industry Management (EIM) program.

“You take college students today, and they think differently,” CAFES Assistant Dean Russ Kabaker said. “They are going to have really cool ideas on how they can design an experience around a certain company brand.”

This is a giant leap in transitioning from what is currently known as the Recreation, Parks, Tourism and Administration (RPTA) major to what will soon be recognized as the Experience Industry Management (EIM) major, according to RPTA Department Head Bill Hendricks.

“I feel like the name better represents the majority of concentrations and overall purpose of the major itself,” RPTA sophomore Ashley Milne said. “I think the idea of the Experience Innovation Lab sounds interesting and looks like it would lead to a lot of good opportunities so I would be interested in learning more about it.”

Students will get the opportunity to work side-by-side with GPJ executives and other businesses on complex projects to promote brands. For example, the lab will enable students to look at specific designs of wineries’ tasting rooms and alter them to serve specific clients as well as design applications that can better serve consumers such as frequent fliers on an airline.

Inside the lab, there are plans for various technologies and spaces dedicated to different student projects. Telepresence and video conferencing are planned to be available for connecting with the business executives and experiential professionals at GPJ. Mobile and voice-activated technology, creative cloud suites and ideation spaces are also said to be featured in the lab.

“What the organization does is try to create an emotional engagement between a consumer and a brand, and they do that through an experience,” Kabaker said. “We formed this partnership where we have students actively working with real world clients trying to provide a solution for what they are looking for with a fresh set of eyes.”

GPJ is an American corporation specializing in brand and event marketing. The agency regularly brings around 10-15 Cal Poly interns onto their team during the summer terms.

“Having been ingrained in this work for decades, GPJ is able to offer unique perspectives and insights to truly make this a state-of-the-art learning experience that will foster the future leadership of our industry,” GPJ CEO Chris Meyer said.

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