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Annual Advertising Agency Tour Goes National with Help of Alumni and Zoom

Meadows advertising creative track students talk shop with agencies across the U.S.

Mark Allen, Lecturer

Our students are still in mourning over not getting to go on the NYC trip this year; it’s really become one of the biggest rites of passage for the creative program. That being said, it was great to mix things up by getting to hear from industry pros from all over the country. And if I’m being honest, this was just as good for our souls as professors—that is, getting to check in with our beloved former students during these crazy times. The collective experience and wisdom among the group of alums we visited with was truly impressive and I think it made our current students very optimistic about their future in the advertising industry.

Willie Baronet, Stan Richards Professor in Creative Advertising

This has clearly been a semester like no other, and I was especially sad not to get to celebrate in person with our graduates. But this is a strong group of students. We ended the semester with a Roast and Toast with our creative cohorts, and even on Zoom it is obvious the bonds are real. Looking forward to reconnecting with them all this fall!

Cheryl Mendenhall, Senior Lecturer and Program Director for Graphic Design Minor

The pivot to the virtual tours was amazing—it really helped lessen the disappointment of not being able have the NYC trip this year. It was a wonderful opportunity that allowed more students and, as you can see, a wider range of alumni and agencies to be involved. Being able to talk with alums who have gone through the same program you’re in and learning about their path to where they are now was invaluable, if not inspirational, to our current students. The offers of help, the sage advice, the connections being made were heart-warming, I couldn’t be more proud of the people our former students have become.

In a typical year during a typical May, Meadows students majoring in advertising/creative specialization go to New York City and tour a dozen or more of the world’s top ad agencies. Led by professors Willie Baronet and Mark Allen, the students meet agency creatives, talk shop and make connections.

But this was not a typical year.

Despite curtailed travel plans due to the pandemic, the agency visits bloomed into something bigger in 2020. Meadows advertising alumni working in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and Orlando rallied to help Baronet and Allen line up a series of Zoom get-togethers with 23 advertising professionals from 12 agencies across the U.S.

Over a series of virtual visits, the students talked with advertising professionals—most of them Meadows alumni—whose clients have included Snapchat Vertical Networks, Warner Bros. Animation, American Express, Samsung, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Group, Snickers, Twix, Pedigree, Dunkin’, Mountain Dew, M&Ms, Peloton, Casper, the Super Bowl and more, giving them an inkling of the scale of projects that await them in their future careers.

Kaleb Mulugeta (’20), an award-winning copywriter who held internships at adam&eveNYC and TracyLocke Chicago while a student at Meadows, attended the sessions. “The most valuable resource to an advertising student is an advertising professional,” he says. “These sessions have connected me with several alumni and their colleagues, expanding my network and providing an inside scoop on what the best agencies are producing. Follow-up messages lead to informational interviews, which lead to building relationships, which usually get you hired. The best way to break into the industry is to know someone on the inside, and these virtual tours do just that.”

The sessions were moderated by Baronet, with Allen and Cheryl Mendenhall, senior lecturer and program director for the graphic design minor, on hand to add to the conversations. Alumni fielded questions ranging from how to ace an interview and how to manage a demanding work schedule/client/boss to how to keep creativity fresh and more. In a session with Anomaly (Los Angeles), alumna Tien Dang (’16) and a handful of Anomaly colleagues walked the students through the evolution of campaigns for clients such as eos lip balm and skin care products; the “Avec Eric” series on Netflix; dosist, a line of dose-controlled cannabis products that aid with wellness; Panera Bread; and more. 

Prior to each Zoom meeting, the students received pre-meeting emails with brief introductions from the alumni. In bite-sized paragraphs, the students learned about the alums’ career trajectories after graduation:

Kelsey Cordutsky (’15) - Senior Visual Designer at Huge, San Francisco
Howdy! I graduated from SMU in 2015 with a double major in creative advertising and marketing. Absolutely no one is surprised that I am using my arts degree way more than my business degree. Post grad I moved to San Francisco, bopped around a bit and now work as a senior visual designer for Huge Inc. During my time here I have gotten to make playful logos, build interactive sculptures, and even create a talking dog collar.

Tien Dang (’16) - Producer at Anomaly, Los Angeles 
Hi, I’ve always been all over the place and I usually let my heart lead ’cause why not? I took a chance on NYC but felt like I hadn’t found what I was looking for yet, so I quit my job to travel and work abroad for a year. I moved to LA for an in-house fashion marketing job but quickly realized I hate retail and serendipitously walked into Anomaly LA and was offered a producer role. Since then, I’ve worked on brands such as Facebook Dating, Twitch, Uber Eats, Diet Coke and Cheerios. 

Sarah Erickson (’16) - Brand Designer and Founder, Sarah Ann Design, Dallas
I’m Sarah—a freelance brand designer for creatives and small business owners. I have an affinity for hand lettering and custom illustrations. During college, I thought I would pursue a career at a big agency ... but instead, I found myself starting a design business of my own a year after graduating. It’s been a dream job ever since.

Zoë Filutowski (’16) - Independent Art Designer, Orlando  
Hi, I’m Zoë! After my junior year at SMU, I was a graphic design intern at Pentagram in Austin. Since graduating, I got an internship at Wieden+Kennedy New York as a motion designer that turned into a full-time job for a year and a half, got my M.A. in animation from SCAD in Savannah, and then realized my true calling was the life of a freelancer doing animation, illustration, graphic design, fine art, and photography from my hometown, (the non-Mickey Mouse part of) Orlando, Florida. When I’m not doing all that stuff, I teach kids hip hop.  

Riley Frost (’18) - Art Director at Commerce House, Dallas 
I graduated from SMU in 2018 and moved back to Nashville where I worked in-house as a graphic designer at a small music recruiting company. After about 8 months, I realized I hated that and working in-house wasn’t for me. Now I’m an art director at Commerce House in Dallas and have been working on accounts like Dallas Film Society, Sabre and Texas Health.  

Gaëlle Gachelin (’19) - Art Director; intern at The Richards Group, Dallas
Hi, I’m Gaëlle! I graduated last December with a double major in creative advertising and French and a minor in graphic design. I’m currently interning as an art director at The Richards Group and loving everything about it.

Liz Glander (’14) - Art Director at Digitas, New York
Since graduation, I’ve moved to Austin, gotten a tattoo, fostered 5 dogs and driven a U-Haul to New York. I moved in with my grandparents in New Jersey for several months while I looked for a job (which luckily I found 2 weeks after moving in) but then decided to stay so I could save up to be able to afford my studio apartment and broker’s fee. Which was STUPID. Don’t ever use a broker. I think those fees are illegal now, but I digress. Here are all the places I’ve worked: Drumroll, Fly Communications, Resolute Digital, Digitas, and as an independent art director and designer.

Gabby Grubb (’19) - Art Director/Writer at TBWA\Chiat\Day, Los Angeles
In a world of Kylie Lip Kits, I’m a Chanel Rouge. I have chronic puppy fever, and my favorite color is black. When I’m not making ads, you can find me making art, clothes, three-point shots, and impulsive decisions. Currently, I’m flexing between art directing and writing as a hybrid creative at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA.

Jolie Guz (’18) - Creative at Bullish, New York
America runs on Dunkin’ ... and so did my entry-level advertising career! I started at BBDO New York working on brands like Dunkin’, Mountain Dew, and M&Ms before moving to Bullish early this year! Bullish is a venture capital fund/design studio hybrid with clients like Peloton, Casper, and Birchbox.  

Morgan Hoff (’17) - Art Director at BBDO, New York
I started at BBDO New York as an intern in 2017 and have had two rather unexpected cross-country moves with the agency since then. I’m currently stuck in my apartment in Brooklyn working on brands like Snickers, Twix, and Pedigree. Still trying to get better at feeding myself though. Could use some tips from Greg.

Madeline Khare (’18) - Script Coordinator at Warner Bros. Animation, Los Angeles
I’m Madeline and I’ve done a little bit of everything since graduation! I interned at 24/7 Laundry Service in Los Angeles, a Snapchat company called Vertical Networks, and somehow ended up working in animation. I PA’d on two Disney Junior shows and now have the honor of working at Warner Bros. Animation on Ellen DeGeneres’s new show, Little Ellen, as a script coordinator. :-)  24/7 Laundry Service website; Warner Bros. website

Jennifer Nelson (’18) - Dancer, Actor, Storyteller, New York
Hi, I’m Jennifer!! I double majored in dance and creative advertising and interned as a copywriter for mcgarrybowen in NYC. I then moved forward to pursue dance professionally while I worked a million jobs including freelance copywriting; waiting tables for guests like Jennifer Lawrence and Julia Roberts; selling jewelry in Brooklyn in 20-degree weather; teaching hip hop to high schoolers; and walking dogs (I’m scared of dogs). I now work as an associate for a tech startup company called MIRROR that sells fitness mirrors. Still dancing professionally too!

[See Jennifer in a one-minute video for Delta, with cameo by fellow alumnus Eric Sedeno.]

Jordan Ogle (’15) - Executive Strategist at Infinite, Dallas
10 years’ experience. SMU creative track grad. Minor in graphic design. Our agency started small but grew through persistence and never giving up. We work on brands like Budweiser, ESPN, Pizza Hut, & Topgolf. Remind me to tell you about the time I took Willie four-wheeling down by the Trinity River in the middle of the night. It was payback.

Greg Peterson (’16) - Copywriter at Digitas, New York
It took me about 6 months to go from graduation to a full-time job in New York, but it was worth every bologna sandwich I had to eat so I could save money. Over the past 3 years at Digitas, I’ve been writing copy for brands like American Express and Samsung. And I’ve gotten much better about feeding myself too.

Greg Lang (’17) - Senior Analyst, Data & Analytics at Digitas, New York
After graduating in 2017 (marketing major and advertising minor), I moved to Austin working as a research associate at a client service agency partnering with media agencies and consulting groups. Eight months later, I moved to New York for a role on the performance analytics team at Digitas, working on clients such as Samsung and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Group.  

Eric Sedeno (’18) - Art Director at Translation, New York
I’ve been known to blurt out some outrageous puns and have a hard time not chuckling at my own jokes. I have an optimistic yet pragmatic view of the world. My goal is to graphically design the world into a more positive place and to never forget that even I used Comic Sans back in the day. 

Michelle Sensale (’16) - Art Director at The Richards Group, Dallas
As a senior at SMU with no clue where life would take me, I began my internship at TRG and was hired just a few months later. Since then, I’ve been working on accounts like Dr Pepper and FCA (think Ram, Jeep, etc.) but primarily work on The Home Depot specializing in television. This year I will be celebrating my 5-year anniversary here and have loved every minute of it. I still have no clue where life will take me, but I’m starting to understand that’s the fun of it all. ;)  

Sam Shearson (’18) - Junior Designer at Energy BBDO, Chicago
In my 2ish years at Energy BBDO I have gotten to work for brands like Jack Daniel’s, Champion, Avocados from Mexico, Ziploc and many more. Since graduation I have been busy ... 2 apartments, 2 promotions, too many all-nighters, a puppy, a pandemic & copious amounts of wine. 

Tanner Thompson (’17) - Art Director at CPB, Denver
Hi there! I’m an art director that wishes he was either a designer or a writer so somehow settled for the middle. I think I’m pretty funny but most other people are on the fence about it. Since graduation I worked up in New York for two years at BBDO on Snickers and now I’m chillin’ in Colorado at CPB hanging out with Captain Obvious. Like and subscribe!

“I was thrilled with how the virtual agency tours went this semester,” says Baronet. “We are all sad that we couldn’t travel to New York, but this is practicing what we preach, using creativity to solve problems. The result way over-delivered. I was extremely proud of all our former students, their accomplishments and wisdom. I only cried one and a half times during these Zoom calls. And I was also proud of our current students, the way they showed up, asked powerful questions and demonstrated they weren’t going to let the coronavirus situation keep them down.”

Read more about the Temerlin Advertising Institute at SMU Meadows School of the Arts.

Keep up with student and faculty activities and stories on the Temerlin Advertising Institute blog.

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