04/24/2013 05:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2013

Not Just an Underdog: BUnow & Its Media Empire

We've all heard it before: the tale of the meek, trivial protagonist rising up against all odds and expectations to grow bigger and achieve things none had ever imagined. At first, the tale of -- a stand-alone, pure-play online news outlet at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania -- may seem no more than just another underdog story. However, speak to any of the students involved and they'll tell you it is a story of dedication, hard work, and exceptional personal and communal growth.

BUnow recently celebrated its five-year anniversary; no small feat for an organization that started from virtually nothing. In 2008, Organization Advisor and Professor of Mass Communications at BU, Dr. Richard Ganahl, set off to create an enthusiastic, driven campus organization that would "Bring the NOW to BU." Realizing the potential and benefits of publishing online, Ganahl began gathering some of the quickest and strongest minds on campus to explore the world of on-line journalism. Armed solely with a sense of adventure, a drive to succeed and a desire to communicate, these students began to lay the foundation for a tremendously successful student organization.

Those first few years were essential to the initial growth of the organization. However, the website's readership and membership began to skyrocket three years ago with the implementation of a business plan, which called for a more organized editing and publishing process, the creation of a chain of command, and a required number of published articles per week. The plan took the greatest skills of the seasoned members, highlighted them, and used them to the publication's advantage.

Together, the newly appointed editor-in-chief and managing editor built a comprehensive editing process, while the PR and advertising coordinators began organizing accounts and events. The plan worked seamlessly. In about a year, the publication began to see exponential growth in readership, starting at less than 900 page views a month to an average of 1,000 page views a day. As the BUnow reputation grew, membership followed suit. Starting with roughly 15 people, the organization now boasts numbers as high as 40-50 members across its journalism, public relations, video production, and advertising teams.

Content-wise, the BUnow journalists have covered everything from world and local news to high-profile interviews with university staff, visiting entertainers such as musician J. Cole, and President of the National Iranian American Council, Trita Parsi. Yet, for this team, these were just expected accomplishments that came along with the organization's growth.

Looking to improve the organization even further, the group began to look for new projects to take on. Having attended the College Media Association Convention in New York City for the past few years, the BUnow team was inspired to plan and co-sponsor the first PASSHE Collegiate Media Summit. Plans began to unfold and the summit became reality with the efforts of the entire BUnow team and many university officials. Held on the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23, 2012, the summit invited representatives of student media at all universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to attend a weekend of meeting, networking, and listening to lectures by professionals in the journalism, public relations, telecommunications, and technology fields. Featured speakers included: Sree Sreenivasan, Chief-Digital-Officer for Columbia University; Dave Marra, a Senior Systems Engineer for Apple; and Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist, Susan Snyder; and several local media professionals and University Communications Directors. Throughout the weekend, students were not only able to meet these professionals, but were given the chance to network with students from other university publications, effectively creating a statewide web of information and student professionalism. The event was so successful that the sponsor, The Pennsylvania State Employee's Credit Union (PSECU), agreed to fund future summits for the next five years.

While the organization continues to strive for journalistic excellence and engaging content, BUnow has been shaped into an education organization where students have the chance to improve their writing skills and grab opportunities they may not be offered in the classroom. The students involved have proved that if there is one thing to never underestimate, it's the power of driven young minds. The BUnow culture is a strong one that pulls in students with serious potential on campus, concentrates their skills, and makes them the best they can be. It's a culture where students who have gained experience in their respective fields are happy to help underclassmen to share the same personal and professional growth.

In my past three years here, I have personally seen students grow both as writers and as young professionals -- something I wouldn't trade for the world.