6 UMN multicultural strat comm students nationally honored

The students selected within the “Top 50 Most Promising Multicultural Students” traveled to New York City for workshops and networking.

by Emma Walytka

Six University of Minnesota students were chosen to attend the American Advertising Federation’s Most Promising Multicultural Students program in February, where they attended workshops and networked.

The immersion program is a week-long, all-expenses paid trip to New York City, with all chosen University students strategic communication majors from the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The American Advertising Federation is the only organization that includes members across all domains and career standings within the advertising industry. The federation is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and is the “Unifying Voice for Advertising,” including more than 150 local clubs across the country and representing about 35,000 advertising professionals.

Application process engaged creativity

Recipient Sara Omar, a fourth-year student, said she chose strategic communication as her major because she has always been passionate about the art of communication’s presence in music and working in the entertainment industry.

Omar said she didn’t know much about advertising before applying to the program, and that it was an engaging, creative and challenging process that evoked deep thought about how she wants to portray herself within the industry.

According to Omar, there was a prompt in the application for students to create their own tagline and hashtag. She viewed it as a life motto and experience-based prompt where applicants could share information about their diverse upbringings and cultural identities.

Omar said her tagline was, “I believe in not making advertisements, but leaving long-lasting impressions. #makeyourmark.”

Omar said the application also included questions about challenging moments in applicants’ lives growing up.

“The application did have some technical questions, such as telling about times of adversity growing up as a BIPOC individual,” Omar said. “The questions gave you an opportunity to express yourself, put your best self forward and stand out from other applicants.”

Program embraces diverse identities

First-year student Elizabeth Gordon said to be named a recipient means to be a trailblazer. She observed that other students of color with similar experiences and identities as her can make an impact as a leader and make a name for themselves in the advertising industry.

“Growing up, I knew that representing my identity and making an impact in the Black community was going to be important to me,” Gordon said. “It’s something that I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to actively participate in and uphold throughout my educational career.”

Gordon said although she attended predominantly white schools growing up, she made sure to develop opportunities where she could support and uplift her community by taking on leadership roles to enable tangible change.

Welcome to New York

Attendee and recent December graduate Destiny Carter-Wleh said networking with advertising companies was a big part of the trip, including tagline drafting and delivery.

Carter-Wleh said the initial tagline for the application was an ongoing project throughout the trip. Recipients worked on delivery, speech and overall confidence in their pitches in a room full of agencies, with mentors present to help them revise their taglines.

“We also had a guest speaker named Corey Richardson, who conducted a workshop surrounding 10 things he learned upon going into advertising, which was very helpful in reminding us that it’s okay to make mistakes in your occupational journey,” Carter-Wleh said.

Students had the opportunity to talk to “great minds” in the industry and people who have worked on big advertising campaigns, including Popeyes and the McDonald’s Cardi B and Offset meal, Omar said.

“They also provided us opportunities that weren’t strictly advertising focused, as we went to the SiriusXM, Sony Music Group and TikTok offices,” Omar said. “The AAF did a really good job of diversifying the network of professionals that we talked to.”

“A journey of self-discovery”

Gordon said the trip gave her the opportunity to envision herself in different positions within the advertising industry and visualize how she can create work that does not just sell but also acts as a positive force for change.

“I never thought it would be a journey of such self-discovery, now seeing how my career can play out while also staying true to myself and my values of community and impact,” Gordon said.

Omar said the experience compelled her to strive to achieve more academically and occupationally while making her even more proud of where she is now.

“I want to emphasize just how grateful we are for this opportunity and how rewarding it felt the past week just being present, seeing what our futures are capable of,” Omar said.