Author: Rand Nelson

2016 C&IS Dean’s Medal Ceremony

deans-medal-12-16Dean Nelson awarded The Dean’s Medal on Friday to C&IS Board of Visitors Member, Mr. William Brock Lewis. This was Dean Nelson’s first Dean’s Medal to award.

The award is given to individuals who exemplify the qualities of sustaining friendship, unsurpassed loyalty and dedication to the College of Communication and Information Sciences. Since its inception in 2002, only ten recipients have been awarded the Dean’s Medal.

“Mr. William Brock Lewis far exceeds our measures for this special award,” Dean Nelson said. “It has been a privilege to work with Bill since I was named Dean in July 2014.”

Lewis’ passion for excellence has played a monumental role in creating a sustainable brand for C&IS and in shaping its strategic plan. He has served on the C&IS Board of Visitors since 2011, serving as Chairman from 2015-2016. An alumnus of UA, Lewis served as editor to “Forum,” a national public relations magazine and was a leader in student organizations during his time as a student. He graduated with his bachelor of arts degree in 1969 and master of arts degree in 1971. In 1987, Lewis joined with Norma Hanson and Terry Slaughter to build the nationally acclaimed advertising and branding firm, SlaughterHanson.

The Rising Tide: Capstone Agency

capstone-agency-2The past two years have meant a lot for the Capstone Agency. The nationally affiliated, student-run firm brought home first place in the Bateman Case Study Competition, as well as the Teahan Chapter Award for best student-run firm. In a matter of a few years, the reputation of the Capstone Agency has gone from great to elite and this is not accidental.

The process of becoming the nation’s top firm has a support structure of intentionality, hard work and time. And still—with improvement being a fixed priority—the firm isn’t slowing down. The key way that Capstone Agency develops students is through the process of mentorship. Younger, less-experienced students are given opportunities to ask questions, to learn on the go and to spend time treading the footsteps of their similarly ambitious peers.

Katie Gatti, firm director, entered the firm as a second-semester freshman. Early on, she held agency office hours that put her in close proximity to senior firm members. Because of this, she’s a great example of just how far the mentorship experience can take you. Questions she asked about how to structure documents and when to apply for job postings would lead to bigger conversations that would shape not just her experience in Capstone Agency, but also the direction of the entire firm.

“Experiences that I had organically, I have tried to make a guarantee for our students,” Gatti said. “This year we’ve implemented doubled-up office hours to make sure that that experience is something that people are going to get for sure.”

These students are committed to finding opportunities to learn from one another. They also legitimately want to help each other. At a potluck dinner, there are two kinds of people: those who will brag about the “family secret” in their prized baked beans and those who will give you the entire recipe. Capstone Agency students are the latter.

“It is very much a culture of ‘a rising tide lifts all ships,’” Sonny Franks, Capstone Agency director of account services said, “because I know that ten years from now when I’m looking to make a career change… these connections that I’m making now are going to serve me so well.”

The agency has also begun offering workshops for their students to help them prepare for the workplace, put together resumes and market their experience in the agency to interested employers. These workshops are the direct result of conversations and eureka moments that older students had when they were the younger agency members.

“There has been a lot of organic mentorship, but we really are trying to create kind of that value added for our members because we ask a lot of them,” Franks said. “We really do want to make it as valuable of an experience as possible.”

The experience alone is far more than workshops and mentorship. Capstone Agency members are getting a real look at what it takes to work in a communications firm. Imagine being fresh out of college and headed into an interview for a big firm. How much better would it be to have real-life experience applicable to the job you’re applying for? This is the kind of opportunity that Capstone Agency is currently providing for its students.

“Professionally, I feel that I’m a leg up,” Gatti said. “[Interviewers] always want to know what you’re doing, what your role is, what experience you’ve gotten—and just being able to talk about that in a semi-coherent way has been extremely helpful.”

Being a nationally recognized communications firm may indicate to the casual observer that Capstone Agency is only for upper class students majoring in advertising and public relations, but the agency isn’t limited to these kinds of students. In fact, the current leadership encourages freshmen and sophomore students to apply, and the skillset isn’t limited to a particular field of study.

“If you’re a bright student, if you’re a fast learner and a good writer, it really doesn’t matter when [you apply],” Gatti said. “You could be a first semester freshman as long as you have the basic skills that are really just good for public relations.”

Mentorship and real-world experience aren’t the only things driving the firm forward. The friendships that Capstone Agency members have forged through all of their time together have given their working relationships an added benefit. These close-working relationships are more than passing friendships; they’re future contacts and partners in the communications industry.

“I think because we share these common passions, we have deeper relationships,” Gatti said.

Applications are officially open for next semester’s Capstone Agency members and will close on January 6. Dedicated, hard-working students who have strong aspirations for success and want to learn on the go are welcome to apply.

capstone-agency

Click here to access the Capstone Agency application. 

Secret Meals for Hungry Children raises over $100,000

secret-meals-gala-website-4Five years ago, Susy Daria’s upper-level APR class took on Secret Meals for Hungry Children as a client for a semester-long project. The program was started by Alabama Credit Union, and has provided weekend meals for thousands of children in the Tuscaloosa and Alabama community. The class was divided into teams and worked to brand, plan and execute a campaign that would fundraise for the charity. Working with Secret Meals for Hungry Children became a tradition, and eight semesters and countless creative executions later, Daria’s classes have contributed over $100,000 to address the issue of hunger in Alabama’s elementary school-aged children.

In order to celebrate the fundraising achievement, Susy Daria and a team of students including Sarah Jenks, Victoria Davis, Saxby Sperau, Danielle Castille and Caroline Doss worked to host the Secret Meals Grand Gala November 10 at NorthRiver Yacht Club.

“It’s incredible to see these students do good work for a good cause. Their passion and enthusiasm to give back within their chosen profession makes my job as an instructor infinitely easier,” Daria said.

Community sponsorships and partnerships allowed all proceeds from the evening to benefit the Secret Meals program, and a silent auction featured food, jewelry and artwork from local vendors.

“Our partners are so gracious, and they have made it easier for us to continue building relationships,” Caroline Doss said.

The student team hosted community supporters, current and past students, and their own family members, and helped educate guests about the nutritional gap that was created on weekends for nearly 20% of children who live below the poverty line in Alabama.

As the evening’s program kicked off, Sarah Jenks applauded the efforts of former students, “We would not have been able to give back as much as we have without the positive reputation of Secret Meals in the community.”

A slideshow and video compilation showcased the past five years, featuring snippets of what former students had learned and the events they had planned. Fundraisers such as “Hunger is no joke,” “Masterpieces for Meals,” “Secret Sips” and “Hunger Feeds,” raised awareness and money for the Secret Meals program.

Representatives from Secret Meals for Hungry Children thanked the APR classes for their dedication to the program, and Alabama Credit Union presented Susy Daria with an Apple Award, an honor reserved for an individual who has given selflessly to the Secret Meals for Hungry Children program.

“I am lucky to have been given this opportunity to work with a fantastic client and community of supporters,” Daria said during her acceptance speech with tears of happiness in her eyes. The Secret Meals Grand Gala marks the final fundraising event for the semester for Daria’s classes, and she could not think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the program’s past successes, and set a tone for the future.