Refund?! Refund?!

by Mark Firmani

February 4, 2015

As a Hoosier, I hold a handful of movies to be among the best and brightest; films that show good Midwestern values, the value of hard work and competitiveness.  Of course, I speak of the venerated “Indiana Trilogy” – RudyHoosiers and Breaking Away.

Last weekend, our intern Keena and I made a presentation to a group of freshly minted college grads, all looking for their first jobs in PR or communications. Our presentation focused on the tricks and tools of leveraging that first opportunity.

We began the presentation by asking the folks to take a short quiz that focused on current events – my goal was to help illustrate that true communications pros need to be aware of what’s going on around them. After the quiz, I did my presentation, and then we posted the scores on the screen.

That’s where The Indiana Trilogy comes in.

For those of you cycle-crazy enough to have seen Breaking Away (or if you simply went to IU) you will remember the scene when the Frat Boy tries to return a Corvette he purchased from the protagonist’s father’s used-car lot. The boys are pushing the car back to the lot while the dad is pushing the car back out on the street, shouting with shock and awe: “Refund?! Refund?!” He later wakes up in bed shouting the same thing, with a concerned physician leaning over him.

Now, back to the quiz. When Keena posted the scores on the screen, I did a double-take on the results. The absolute highest score of the 10-question quiz was 70 percent, scored by two of the 50 students. There were four students who failed to get a single question right (which brings to mind another great college movie with the Animal House scene in Dean Wormer’s office).

The group’s average score was 29 percent.

That brings me to the movie. If I was the recent purchaser of a $100,000 college education, and I scored a “zero point zero,” to paraphrase Dean Wormer, I would take my sheepskin back, shouting “Refund! Refund!”

Certainly it is unfair to blame our colleges and universities – there is plenty of blame to go around, but this reconfirms that students entering the workforce need to get with it.

I explained – somewhat slack-jawed – that being intellectually curious and a voracious reader isn’t optional. These are table-stakes for entering the profession. In my typical animated way, with arms flying and voice raised, I implored them to take charge, get with it, and turn themselves into young professionals. Most were nodding and smiling, giving me feedback that they were hearing my message.

In these closing moments, I had hope. I thought maybe the test and my monologue helped jump start their thinking.

Then a hand went up.

“Mr. Firmani, when you talk about providing writing samples, would it be OK for me to provide screenshots of some of my tweets?”

Refund. Refund.

Here is a copy of the quiz. How would you score?

  1. Name eight of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices.
  2. What is the formal name of “Obamacare”?
  3. Who is the largest employer in Washington state?
  4. Who is Washington State’s current governor?
  5. What job did our governor hold immediately before taking office?
  6. Within one percentage point, what is the national unemployment level?
  7. Within one percentage point, what is Washington state’s unemployment level?
  8. What is the title of the person who heads Canadian’s parliamentary system?
  9. What is that person’s name?
  10. According to the AP Stylebook, what are two of the eight state names that should never be abbreviated?

Originally published on April 19, 2013

Mark Firmani
About Mark Firmani
Mark Firmani leads Firmani + Associates as its founder and president, setting the tone for the firm and its team of skilled practitioners and marketing specialists. He brings more than 25 years of PR expertise, business communication strategy, marketing savvy and political experience to every aspect of the firm’s operations. Mark defines the strategic vision of Firmani + Associates within each of its practice areas and provides senior-level counsel to client partners representing a diverse range of industries.
Back to Articles

Leave a Comment