In Advertising, Students

After their original study abroad was canceled, Professor Jeff Sheets and advertising students participated in a Zoom version of a study abroad

Communications students and professors within the advertising program planned to go to Europe on a study abroad during spring term, but the six-week trip was canceled this year due to COVID-19. 

Professor Jeff Sheets — the creative track professor in the advertising program — has taken students in past years to New York for The One Show, Paris for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and London for D&AD (Design and Art Direction). 

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” said Liv Johnston, a senior in the advertising program. “Aside from missing the Cannes Festival and the opportunity to travel, I felt like I was missing out on getting to know my peers. Past groups have said the study abroad is what brought them together. I was scared that without it, our cohort wouldn’t be as successful or united as past groups.”

Johnston wasn’t the only student disappointed by the news. Senior advertising student Jay Cook was in denial that the trip was cancelled — she even took her passport and raincoat home in anticipation for the trip to resume as planned.

This year, Sheets adapted to the circumstances by inviting industry connections, friends and alums to spend time with the students on Zoom to share stories, ideas and advice. 

“One of the best ways for advertising students to network and be inspired is through attending industry events and awards ceremonies,” said Sheets. “I decided that if we couldn’t go to the industry to get all that immersion, experience, networking and inspiration, then as the faculty I had to do everything I could to bring the industry to us. The great thing about technology is you can do things like that, it just takes a lot of invitations and work.”

“When Professor Sheets said that he wanted to do a virtual study abroad, it got everyone excited,” said Dallin Slavens, a senior studying advertising. “He pulled so many strings. It wasn’t the same as traveling to  Europe, but it was a really good growing experience.”

Senior advertising student Evelyn Harper knew she wanted to go on the study abroad for the experience of meeting professionals, but she didn’t think she would be able to afford it.

“When they first started cancelling everything, I was interviewing for so many scholarships trying to get enough money for the study abroad,” said Harper. 

Because the study abroad was virtual, all 40 students within the creative track of the advertising program participated; this wouldn’t have been possible if the group had been traveling. The Zoom study abroad included visits from CEO’s, CCO’s, creative directors, copywriters, art directors, producers, film directors, directors of photography and many more professionals in the industry. 

“When the speakers talked about their first experiences working as a professional, that made my goals seem achievable because they humanized what it looks like to grow your skills and become a better creator,” said Harper. “My journey is going to be very individual as to how I get where I want to be.”

The virtual study abroad included speakers who came from top ad agencies all across the globe, such as TBWA\Media Arts Lab in LA and Beijing, Wieden + Kennedy in New York, London, and Portland, and creative teams at brands like Facebook in Menlo Park and Lego in Denmark. The study abroad also featured a panel discussion with five female alumni, as well as a lesson on spirituality in creativity.

Mad Gals panel, photo courtesy of Liv Johnston and Hayley Christensen

“The primary emphasis of the spirituality in creativity portion of the study abroad was to show students how to use their God-given talents and gifts to help alleviate and lift. What cooler way is there to use creative talents than to promote the most important message the world has ever known — the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” said Sheets.

Johnston shared her experience from the spirituality-creativity portion of the study abroad.

“I’ve always viewed our Heavenly Parents as the master creators,” said Johnston. “I feel as though when I am creating for good, I am tapping into my divine characteristics that I got from my Heavenly Mother and Father.” 

Planning a study abroad normally takes at least a year of work, but Sheets planned this virtual study abroad within a few weeks.

“Professor Sheets quickly reached out to people. It may not sound effective to have an online study abroad, but it helped us grow a lot,” said Slavens. “I’ve seen the best of the best now because of this experience, and it helped me be my most creative self in an industry where you have to be creative to create ads and messages that will really impact people.”

After the six-week virtual study abroad, Cook felt more unified with her peers and inspired in her creativity; the experience exceeded her expectations.

“Not only did the many Zoom meetings and chats make us closer as a creative track, but each professional gave us a distinct and new perspective on the industry and life as a creative,” said Cook. “By the end, I felt like I had grown as a copywriter more immensely than I would have thought possible. I wasn’t just sitting in front of a computer screen. I was given an all-access pass to the best in the world of advertising.”

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