A course you would like to take again, and again, and again

Susan Katz with her students

It’s not often that a one-semester long class has a transformative effect on the majority of its students. However, two courses taught by Susan Katz, senior lecturer and chair of the Department of Mass Communication at the University of Bridgeport, have succeeded in doing this since 2003. The two courses—Advertising & Public Relations Campaign and Publicity Methods—are quite similar but the clients are different.

Engage in a conversation with students who have just completed the Advertising & Public Relations Campaign course this fall, and you will soon learn how Katz in her 15-week course helps students define their future career pursuits, affirm their desire to commit to a specific career path, and broaden their perspective on career options. 

The course’s purpose is to provide a real-world, hands-on learning experience that results in a multimedia campaign for a real-world client. This year’s client was the UB China International Program with marketing collateral—brochure, media kit, logo, video, social media, business cards, t-shirts—produced for the University’s president, Laura Trombley.

Katz calls this program a bedrock of the mass communication program. “It gives students experiential learning opportunities and yields an impressive portfolio that class members can then take to find employment,” she explained.

To accomplish their charge to meet the campaign goals of their client, the class was divided into four working groups: art and design; video and audio production; press and public relations; and social media.

Aayushma Shahi, a senior majoring in mass communication, was selected by Katz to serve as the assistant creative director. Shahi, a self-proclaimed obsessive text message transmitter, was an ideal fit for this role due in part to her strong work ethic, organizational skills, and attention to detail. 

“One of the first questions Professor Katz asked me was in regard to the frequency of my texting. I soon realized why that was important. Throughout the semester, I found myself texting students about project updates and sending quick messages about upcoming deadlines. This is how my mornings began at 7 a.m.,” Shahi said.

Corinne Alleyne, a graphic design major from Long Island and the campaign’s art director, thought that the class might have finished the project early. “We got off to a quick start, and we were feeling pretty good about completing this way ahead of schedule,” she said.

However, Alleyne along with her classmates, soon realized that the campaign was complex and had multiple layers. “Over Thanksgiving, I was working frantically on design pieces, which were my number one priority during break,” she emphasized.

Student videographer extraordinaire Kevar Whilby, a junior majoring in communication with a concentration in advertising, said that his goal, since the age of 14, was to be a filmmaker. 

“I strive to work and excel on my platform and believe that you should always work at your craft and own it. Sometimes people focus too much on what others are doing instead of perfecting their own work,” Whilby remarked.

For each of the students, the class experience had a unique spin. “I thought that my career would be in the creative area, but I found out that my strengths lie in project management. I like to see the many components of a project come together and would like to have a hand in that,” Shahi, who has an interest in the fashion industry, said.

Whilby said that the class served to strengthen what he always knew—his resolve to be a professional photographer. “My dad always told me that a photo tells a thousand words, and I thought of all the possibilities of what could be told with moving photos,” he said.

Recognized for her creative thinking since she was a little girl, Alleyne likes to imagine possibilities— what has never been done before in branding and design that will have a major impact. “I want to experience the multi-dimensions of marketing and public relations, including video and animation, illustration, public relations, website and logo creation, and more.”

Classroom experience at the University of Bridgeport is often complemented by impressive internship opportunities. Last summer Alleyne worked for Bookstr, a company that matches people with books. Shahi worked for JWT, one of the largest ad agencies in the world, in her home country of Nepal. Whilby spent last summer at Sony Headquarters in New York.

The three students had nothing but praise for the rigorous yet career-altering class. Shahi and Alleyne said that they would take the class again in a heartbeat. “We learned so much about working together as a team and being accountable for our individual roles. It was a bit nerve-wracking at times, but we all felt great about the campaign in the end,” Alleyne said.

According to Whilby, “We were happy to see the campaign so well received by the president, dean, and others. The final product and the audience response made all of our efforts worthwhile.”