Alumna Feature: Jolie Guz ’18

You never know where a single Instagram contest will take you. For me, one little Instagram post allowed me to present an elevator pitch to Scott Belsky, Chief Product Development Officer of Adobe. He basically makes all creative careers possible. That elevator pitch won me a trip to Adobe MAX,  an annual creative conference. During this three-day conference in Los Angeles, four thousand art directors, designers, and typeface enthusiasts join together and dive deeper into the software that makes our jobs possible. We tested out new features, listened to industry leaders, and nabbed a TON of free stuff (my favorite freebie was an ACTUAL type specimen! It’s a little metal piece of a letterpress that came in a tiny labeled test tube. SO COOL!). The conference encouraged me to get outside of my laptop and appreciate all the awesomeness of design and how it brings together incredibly interesting people and projects.

I recently graduated from TAI in May but my SMU experience has given me the warmest welcome into the real world. I work with several former TAI rockstars at BBDO in New York –  several of whom were in my own cohort! I also still bother my professors even though I’m no longer in their classes (Sorry Mark for de-railing your Advanced Portfolio class a couple weeks ago!). My education didn’t stopped when I left the classroom. The foundation of skills that I learned at TAI gave me the confidence to enter the art direction world wholeheartedly. My professors taught me that it’s always okay to ask questions and to seek advice from trusted friends and colleagues to strengthen my work.

Scott said it best in his opening keynote presentation on the first day of MAX: “The best way to learn to create is by seeing how others create.” TAI allowed me to learn from and alongside some of my favorite creative minds and I feel endlessly grateful for that opportunity.

Oh, and I’m grateful for Instagram contests too!

Instagram Submission Graphics

Alumna Feature: Alex Mackillop ’18

During my four years at SMU, I majored in Strategic Brand Management through the Temerlin Advertising Institute and minored in business and international studies. I have had several internships and my most recent position, before securing a job in Dallas, was with M&C Saatchi PR Worldwide in London.

My studies at Temerlin helped me obtain this internship position. I learned how to market myself for professional opportunities – an invaluable skill that all students should master as early as possible. Temerlin also taught me how to behave in a professional environment and how to respond to real world, real life, and real job situations.

My responsibilities at M&C Saatchi PR in London encompassed a wide range of activities. I wrote press releases, attended influencer events, and initiated one of the biggest energy drink activations in Europe. I worked with multi-national multi-billion-dollar companies including Red Bull and Foot Locker.

Currently, I am employed at another globally leading PR firm, Weber Shandwick, which is located in the Dallas American Airlines Center.

Temerlin not only prepared me to know the acronyms people use in meetings and to meet deadlines, but also how to position myself professionally, how to be successfully interact with clients and colleagues, and how to market myself in this industry.

This is my advice for current Temerlin students: don’t wait for the job hunt. I encourage you to secure an internship as soon as possible because all experience is good experience. I had five internships in college and I believe that I now work at Weber Shandwick because of this extensive experience. Oh, and also listen to your professors. One day, you might need to know what they taught you.

Welcome Panel for the Digital Media Strategy Specialization

By TAI Professor Dr. Hye Jin Yoon

In September, The Richards Group Media Planners and SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) visited TAI to discuss what having a career in media and digital look like. Experts in paid social, programmatic, and brand media took turns discussing their role in the agency, what kind of path they took to get where they are, what are the differences between SMEs and media planners, and tips on preparing for internships and future careers. An amazing group of nine TRG experts came to the panel and enjoyed fielding questions from our students.

Our senior Digital Media Strategy Specialization students joined the panel as well, Beth Rose, Hannah Tymochko, Julia Devine, and Austin Inglett, all graduating seniors, took time out of their busy schedules to give tips to the incoming group on how to navigate school and professional career building. Students discussed numerous past and current internship experiences, scholarships they have won, and classes within TAI and outside that helped them build relevant knowledge. Everyone emphasized the importance of networking and advised the new students to tap into our TAI faculty as a great resource and to establish more connections.

The Richards Group will be back in November for another media/digital panel and all of TAI will be invited. Media and digital crosses over to all other tracks so it would be a great way to learn more about different areas of an advertising agency. We hope to see you there!

Ethical Dimensions of Art and Design

By: TAI Professor Mark Allen

As someone who has studied both art and philosophy, people regularly ask me what, if anything, they have in common. While I think that there are many fascinating ways in which these two domains overlap, one similarity that I find particularly interesting is the intersection of ethics and aesthetics.

One way that ethics and aesthetics are similar is that they both deal with value. When we say that a painting or a deed is “good,” at least one of the things we mean is that the thing or action in question has value. When we say that a painting or a deed is “bad,” at least one of the things we mean is that it has little value, or even negative value insomuch that it diminishes our experience of life or the world around us. It’s why we use words like “beautiful” and “ugly” interchangeably to describe both artistic works and moral acts.

– That was a beautiful song. 

– That was a beautiful thing you did. 

– That sculpture is ugly. 

– That was a really ugly thing to say. 

In other words, murder is not merely wrong, there is something truly ugly about it. And when a painter puts the final brushstroke on the canvas, there is something distinctly right about it. So, there seems to be an aesthetic dimension to the moral life and an ethical dimension to the aesthetic.

Whether it be moral or artistic, things of value improve our lives in some way. But it is important to point out that many of the things we value most (like good art and good deeds) are worth pursuing for their own sake, regardless of any utilitarian benefit we get out of them. Sure, listening to certain types of music can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. Those who live a life of kindness and generosity often experience the rush of positive feelings and a general sense of well-being. Such benefits are real and welcome, but nonetheless secondary. Good music is valuable even if it doesn’t reduce our heart rate (sometimes it does just the opposite). Acts of kindness and generosity often go unnoticed and lead to self-sacrifice.

Another thing that the spheres of ethics and aesthetics share is the concept of wisdom. No one appreciates it when their difficult seasons or ethical dilemmas are met with oversimplified advice and platitudes from those who mean well, but lack the awareness and nuanced sensitivity that a situation calls for. so often life doesn’t seem to play by any rules, which is why—when things gets complicated—we seek out the counsel of the wise, not just the intelligent or talented. Nor those who have simply memorized a rigid code of conduct: Always do this. Never do that.

Of course, it’s important to start with the “unbreakable” rules that all people everywhere value: don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie. We instruct children to tell the truth, to be kind and to respect their elders. And yet, as they mature we explain that there may come a time when other rules come into play. When a stranger asks if a parent is home; when a bully is cruel to the weak or marginalized; when an adult behaves inappropriately toward a child. It such cases, it’s not time to be nice. But the proper responses in these situations are not somehow violations of the fundamental moral principles of truth, kindness and respect—quite the contrary, the fitting responses are based on and upheld by the most basic fundamentals.

Over the course of my career I’ve been able to witness these parallels play out in the classroom, particularly my design classes. [1] Pick up any good textbook on the topic and more than likely you’ll find a set of rules that, when followed, lead to good design. My go-to text for beginners is Timothy Samara’s Design Elements, which starts off with just such a section entitled, “Twenty Rules You Should Never Break.” Here Samara makes it clear that students of design should:

#4 Never use more than two typefaces. 

#8 Never fill up all the negative space in a layout. 

#18 Always make sure your composition is dynamic and full of motion.” [2]

I like Samara because he is great for beginners in that he gives clear-cut, easy-to-follow rules that help students avoid some of the most common pitfalls that the untrained or self-taught designer may struggle with. However, the complaint I frequently get after a few weeks is that Samara’s method is a very strict and narrow way to approach such an artful discipline. I mean, is the process of design really just a set of rules? A flowchart of do’s and don’ts?

In one sense, I think my students are right to complain—the book does start off in a rather rigid fashion. Always do this, never do that. But the other big reason I use this text is the way Samara ends the book with a chapter devoted to examples of how each and every one of his twenty rules can be broken. Of course, Samara saves this chapter for the end because he is a seasoned professional and an experienced educator. He knows that, until students master the fundamentals, they have not yet developed the aesthetic savvy needed to flex foundational principles like an experienced pro. The fact that Samara offers up twenty ways to break his twenty rules is not proof that aesthetic relativism is true; it only reveals that both skill and experience are needed in order to become a good designer.

When teaching through this text I always stress that Samara does not end his book by saying “Now, throw out all the rules I mentioned earlier and do whatever you want because, after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” If this were true we could choose type, color and style arbitrarily, despite the context or meaning of the work. By contrast, Samara provides detailed, illustrated examples of legitimate exceptions—not contradictions. It’s why the actual name of his final chapter is When and Why to Break Every Rule in this Book.”

Personally, I wish Samara had used a different word than “break” because it’s not as if he is teaching students to actually violate or contradict any fundamental rules of design here. He’s making an appeal to a higher (yet complementary) set of principles that can only be properly wielded with a great deal of knowledge and experience. The examples he gives are exceptions based on more advanced rules that don’t translate well into pithy lists, templates or 140 characters—methods that are the domain of master designers and artists. Perhaps there is a proper time and place for truisms and templates, but with complex themes and problems comes the need for artists who have more than just a set of skills, but in a very real sense demonstrate a certain kind of artistic wisdom.

Aristotle’s approach to ethics most closely embodies what I’m trying to demonstrate and is largely based on what is known as the Golden Mean—that is, finding a “middle” way between the extremes of deficiency and excess. For example, courage is a virtue with respect to how someone responds to danger—if taken to one extreme in excess, it becomes recklessness, while the deficient extreme manifests itself as cowardice. It is no accident that Aristotle uses art as a way to illustrate this concept in his Nicomachean Ethics:

“Hence people are accustomed to saying that there is nothing to take away from or add to works [of art] that are in a good state, on the grounds that the good state is destroyed by excess and deficiency but the mean preserves it; and the good craftsmen, as we say, perform their work by looking to this.” [3]

Aristotle says that we should always strive to be courageous (which might sound dogmatic). But he also says it’s important to take the particular person and situation into consideration (which might sound relativistic). But the beauty of his system is that the mean is not the exact middle, nor is it always found in the same place along the continuum between excess and deficiency. [4] Some situations call for the courageous person to act in a way that is closer to the reckless end of the spectrum, while in other situations what is courageous may seem like cowardice. For instance, a 6’4” military officer who wrestles an armed terrorist to the ground in order to save a train full of people vs. Rosa Parks who simply refused to give up her seat on a bus. Both people did the right thing—the equally courageous thing—but they did so in a way that was fitting for each context. [5]

In summary, when it comes to ethics, the well-lived life certainly comes with its fair share of rules—but it is the wise among us who are most skilled at navigating life’s complex seasons and dilemmas with earned experience and a familiarity with those moral principles of a higher but complementary order. Likewise, the fundamentals of art and design are inescapably important—in fact they form the only foundation from which more advanced skills and principles can be applied or even thought. The fact that such striking parallels show up across the seemingly unrelated disciplines of art and philosophy reveals something significant about the world and our shared experience of it—namely, that values like truth, goodness and beauty are perhaps aspects of reality itself and represent common goals toward which all humanity strives (whether we are conscious of it or not).

 

NOTES: 

[1] While I will focus here on parallels between philosophy and design, it should be noted that legendary advertising icon, Bill Bernbach, studied philosophy at NYU and remained an avid reader of philosophical works throughout his life. In fact, in a speech speech he gave to the 4A’s (the American Association of Advertising Agencies) in 1980, he specifically mentions Aristotle, St. Augustine and Bertrand Russell (among other thinkers) and relates their work to the task of advertising.

[2] Samara, Design Principles, pp. 10-23.

[3] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1106b 10-14.

[4] It is important to note here that the “middle” state that Aristotle advocates is not the exact middle or “average” between extremes, but rather a mean relative to the situation. With this feature, Aristotle’s ethics avoid the moderation fallacy (Ex: Jim isn’t paying attention and backs into Pam’s car. Even though it’s Jim’s fault, he offers to do what’s “fair” by meeting her in the middle and paying for half of the damages).

[5] Aristotle also points out that certain vices that are not on a continuum between extremes, so there is no mean. Ex: there is no “just right” amount of racism, cruelty or adultery.

My First Year at Temerlin Advertising Institute

By: TAI Professor Dr. Yan Huang 

It is hard to believe that it has been one year since I joined Temerlin Advertising Institute (TAI). Looking back, this is an incredible year filled with exciting opportunities and experiences.

TAI stands at the intersection between the advertising industry and the research community. The unique combination provides a great source of inspiration. Through many TAI initiatives over the year, I have been engaged in conversations with both top advertising scholars and industry leaders. I am able to further develop my research program not only by asking questions that are important to theories but also with the industry trends and needs in mind. As the convergence of media and technology has disrupted the landscape of advertising practice, I extended my research on traditional persuasion theories to the digital domain. I initiated research projects that explore how novel digital advertising practices such as native ads and advergames can be used to promote public health and social good. These projects received funding support from the Meadows School, the University Research Council, and the Sam Taylor Fellowship. With the support of TAI, I was able to present four research papers at the annual conferences of the American Academy of Advertising, National Communication Association, and International Communication Association.

As a professor, I always hope to help my students understand the real-world meanings of theories, and motivate them to transplant the knowledge acquired in the classroom to the world at large. Located in a vibrant city and connected to the industry community, TAI is a great place to implement this teaching philosophy. I am also impressed by TAI students’ motivation and their aptitude for making connections between the somewhat abstract academic process and their life. I have had student groups investigating consumers’ perceptions of Whole Foods after Amazon’s acquisition, exploring the use of experiential marketing strategies in military recruitment, and examining how car commercials affect gender stereotyping, just to name a few.

My collaboration with the 9-1-1 program in the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) in the classroom of Strategic Brand Management 2 is a highlight of this approach. Students formed four teams to perform a brand audit for the 9-1-1 program from different angles and provided executable plans for promoting its branding among the public, college students, elected officials, and telecommunication professionals. This task required the abilities to flexibly apply marketing principles in the textbook to the nonprofit context and to critically analyze real-world problems. My students excelled with their creativity, curiosity, and diligence.

Christy Williams, director of the 9-1-1 program, said, “Working with Yan and her students in the Strategic Brand Management class was a great benefit to the 9-1-1 program in the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).  Collaboration with academia is important to our program, as we understand that times are changing and there is value in students’ perspectives.  NCTCOG is very progressive with our technology and we want to keep up with our education and branding as well.  The students at SMU provided new insights and ideas through their class projects.  They served as a ‘fresh eye’ into our program and delivered professional constructive criticism along with proposals for improvement in their presentations. We expected advice on improving our website and social media, but were surprised with the insightful suggestions for presentations and field awareness.  The suggestion to ‘focus on inspiration more than education’ could change the future direction of our awareness strategy.  All in all, we found great value in the partnership.  In fact, we believe that the value will continue with a group of students who took a project to heart and made a difference.  Each one of them demonstrated that they are 9-1-1 champions!” It is certainly one of the most rewarding moments when I saw what students learned and accomplished in the classroom could make a difference in the real world.

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a group of talented colleagues and to instill the passion for and knowledge of advertising into many gifted students. I look forward to another fruitful and joyful year.

Praise From a Class Client

Class Clients

In the program capstone course, Advertising Campaigns, our senior students showcase their accumulated knowledge through an intensive practical exercise. Working in small agency groups, they vie for the new business of a client. The client is real, in the room and judging their performance. The problems and the budgets are real. Students investigate, plan, develop strategies, create integrated marketing campaigns and solve clients’ advertising problems. We’ve worked with brands such as American Airlines, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Glidden, Nokia, Rockfish, Kinko’s, Hyundai, Postal Vault, Toyota Matrix, Bank of America, Waste Management, Wingstop and FLA USA.

Click to learn more or apply to be a Temerlin Class Client

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Praise from one of last semester’s class clients below…

May 16, 2018

Peter,

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for the marvelous work you and your students did on the marketing campaign for Cox Insurance.  I am thrilled with the results.  All of the campaigns went beyond my expectations and “hit it out of the ballpark.”  At the beginning of the project, you said that no client had ever been disappointed with the results and I am certainly no exception.  Indeed, it is hard to imagine a client being more happy than I am with the results.

All of the campaigns had useful information—some more than others—but the beauty of your method for teaching the students is that the competition generates an overall product which surely goes far beyond what would be possible otherwise.  In other words, the whole project is a brilliant conception, and that redounds to you.

It was very hard to pick a winner since all of the campaigns were extremely well conceived and dug deep into the market.  Red Chair’s winning campaign centered squarely on the reason why I started Cox Insurance in the first place, which is to save people time and give them the respect in the marketplace that such hard-working people deserve but have never had.

Again, thank you so much for helping me find the “nuggets” among Cox’s demographics.  I know that we have to pick a project winner and that’s why I’m writing, but let’s be clear—I’m the real winner here—and I know it.

 

Maria Coello

Cox Insurance Group, LLC

 

Temerlin’s Graphic Design Minor FYI

By: TAI Professor Cheryl Mendenhall

I ran into a former student, who had just received her masters degree, at the bookstore after graduation this past May. She was telling me how much she was using the skills learned in one of my graphic design classes at her job – which she hadn’t expected but found that the skills came in handy in her somewhat unrelated field.

Awhile back another former student told me how excited she was to be able to use her graphic design skills at her copy writing internship. Being able to pitch in on projects in a different capacity than was expected made her an even more valuable asset to the team.

Why am I telling you this? Well, while you may know that TAI offers an interdisciplinary minor in graphic design, you may not realize how many fields of study can benefit from these skills. You might be interested in pursuing graphic design as a career but even if you aren’t, learning to become a better visual communicator can enhance a variety of career paths.

It’s so much more than learning the software used in the industry. It is about cultivating your ideas; using design principles of composition and layout; learning about typography, imagery and color choices along with a little psychology to best present your ideas. We discuss and practice all of these skills to build a powerful toolbox to help create messages that inspire, inform, tell stories or engage your audience.

 

You might want to consider how these skills can enhance your interests and career path. You can learn more about the graphic design minor here.

Images Courtesy of:

Currency Redesign, Cho Kim, Intro to Graphic Design

Event Poster, Tanner Thompson, Intro to Graphic Design

Type Specimen Poster, Alexa Acosta, Typography

Logo, Dani Kubitz, Logo and Trademark

Magazine, Traci Penn, Publication Design

Why take a MayTerm or JanTerm Course?

MayTerm or JanTerm courses are not just if you need an extra class or are trying to make up for a failed course. These short courses, 11 class days and eight class days respectively, can be super beneficial and enjoyable. In both situations there are no other courses being taken at the same time so a student’s focus is only on the readings, lecture notes, and assignments of that one specific class.

Mayterm courses are about four class hours a day and JanTerm classes are about eight hours a day, so usually there is no time for extracurricular activities or part-time jobs. At first, this might scare off students, but it is only for 11 or eight class days and you are done with a three credit course for your major or minor as well as potentially a UC requirement. Also, during these two weeks, one’s focus only being on the course material helps learn the concepts well. Students can review material and continually be using and building on material from the day before and the day before that, while the professor can take additional time to review difficult concepts not always possible in class during a regular semester.

I have taught 17 week courses, JanTerm and MayTerm classes as well as 5 week summer sessions. I really think many students do better and enjoy learning the material in a shorter term course when they have only the course material to focus on.

The other element is the bonding that happens between students and also with the faculty member and students. Since people are together every day and for long periods of time, you really become a team in learning the material and working together while almost having a family like feeling. The latter point is further conducive to learning the material while enjoying the time spent learning.

For students unsure about how they would do in a course or nervous about the content, a short semester course is a great option. The average grade when I teach has typically been a little higher than the class average in a regular 17 week long semester because students learn the material better with few outside distractions. Students who sometimes struggle in a bigger class or during a 17 week semester, often find more opportunities within the class to clarify concepts and certainly outside of class time with the opportunity of seeing the professor every day.  In many cases, a MayTerm or JanTerm course is smaller during these off semester learning opportunities, which again allows for deeper learning and richer dialogue in the classroom.

On this last point, the smaller and more intensive structure allows for interesting projects to arise that may not always be possible during a longer session or with a larger class size. One year, my MayTerm ethics in advertising course undertook a volunteer opportunity to help clean up a nearby park. In the process, they learned about the park and the neighborhood in order to create a marketing plan for how to engage the community in using and taking care of the park. This past MayTerm (2018) we tackled the issue of Mental Health and students developed proposals for matching brands with different facets of Mental Health with the goal of bringing awareness to the issues and to help normalize the conversation.

Please consider a short-semester course in your future. The Temerlin Advertising Institute often offers courses in Ethics, Production, Advertising in Dallas or Advertising in NYC as well as Campaigns. Check out your course catalogue online to see what might be available for you.

By Carrie La Ferle, Ph.D.
Distinguished Teaching Professor
Temerlin Advertising Institute

TAI 2017-2018 Student and Faculty Awards

It’s time to celebrate another wonderful year of student and faculty accomplishments. We’ve recognized the achievements that make the Temerlin Advertising Institute an award-winning institute at SMU, and we could not be more proud of our talented students and faculty.

Below are all the industry and special awards earned by our students and faculty during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Industry and Special Awards

Industry Recognition

  • AAF’s Most Promising Multicultural Student – Jennifer Nelson and Eric Sedeño
  • AAF American Advertising Awards (ADDYs) – Samantha Butz, Lucas Crespo, Tiffany Giraudon, Jolie Guz, Madeline Khare, Grace LaMontagne, Grey McDermid, Kirsty McLauchlan, Caroline Moss, Jennifer Nelson, Helen Rieger, Eric Sedeño, Matthieu Smyth.
  • AAF Stickell Internship – Austin Inglett and Dalya Romaner.
  • AFF 10th District Scholarship: Alissa Llort and Avery Lewis
  • Advertising Education Foundation MADE Internship: Eric Sedeño
  • Alliance for Women in Media (AWM) Dallas Irene Runnels-Paula McStay Scholarship – Alissa Llort
  • DFW Interactive Marketing Association Scholarship – Hannah Tymochko
  • DSVC National Show Best Print Advertising Campaign, Best Copy & Judge’s Choice – Tiffany Giraudon, Laura Walsh and Caroline Moss.
  • National Student Advertising Competition, SMU-TAI’s Ad Team: Third Place and Special Judges Award for Best Market Segmentation

Student Organizations

  • SMU Ad Club Officers
Joanna Fennessy President
Sara Jane Stephens
and Alex Mackillop
Co-Membership Chairs
Lex Pedraza Treasurer
Peyton Turbeville Event Planning Chair
Eric Sedeño Communications
  • National Student Advertising Competition | Ad Team –
    Hayley Banas, Myla Borden, Mary Charles Byers, Amy Cooley, Rita de Obarrio, Harrison Fiveash, Anne-Marie Geisler, Alissa Llort, Alex Mackillop, London Mercer, Shelby Pointer, Juan Reyes, Sara Jane Stephens, Sara Ann Whiteley and Frank Zhang.

Institute Scholars

  • Engaged Learning Project –  Samantha Butz
  • Morris Hite – Zachary Crosby
  • Roger and Rosemary Enrico – Andrea Rosas

Honors

  • Alpha Delta Sigma – Joanna Fennessy
  • Kappa Tau Alpha – Arin Forstenzer, Tiffany Giraudon, Caroline Moss, Rachel Kainer, Cheyenne Tilford.
  • Hunt Scholar – Riley Blair
  • SMU Mortar Board Top 10 Sophomore – Rachel Kainer and Jolie Guz

Institute Awards

The Best Students. The Best Faculty. The Best Advertising
TAI STUDENT AWARDS:

  • TAI Anchor Award – Given to a student(s) who consistently “pulls more than his/her weight” in bringing projects to fruition: Matthieu Smyth.
  • TAI Donald John Carty Leadership Award –Given to a student(s) in recognition of leadership in the classroom, the Institute and beyond:
    Cheyenne Tilford.
  • Face of TAI Award – Given to a student(s) who represents the Institute within Meadows, SMU and/or the advertising industry:
    Joanna Fennessy
  • TAI Optimizer Award – Given to a student(s) who demonstrates a desire and aptitude to make work better through superior work strategies and iteration: Alissa Llort and Eric Sedeño.
  • TAI Outstanding Graduate Student – Given to a student(s) who best represents the academic and professional pursuit of the field:
    Coral Pisek.
  • TAI Resilience Award – Given to a student(s) who deals effectively with project setbacks while maintaining a positive attitude and demonstrating a resolve to produce outstanding work: Kirsty McLauchlan
  • TAI Social Impact Award –Given to a student(s) who exemplifies aspects of social responsibility in their advertising work and beyond:
    Anna Proctor.
  • TAI Service Award – Given to a student(s) who renders substantial service to the campus at large as well as in the greater community:
    Rita de Obarrio
  • TAI Team Player Award –Given to a student(s) in recognition of contributions to team projects and activities:
    Sara Jane Stephens and Jolie Guz.
  • TAI Outstanding Academic Achievement in CreativeTiffany Giraudon.
  • TAI Outstand Academic Achievement in DigitalRachel Kainer.
  • TAI Outstanding Academic Achievement in Strategic Brand ManagementCheyenne Tilford.
  • TAI Student Marshal at Graduation
    Caroline Moss.
  • TAI Undergraduate Reader at Graduation
    Alex Mackillop
  • TAI Graduate Reader  – Deja Sanders. 

 

TAI FACULTY AWARDS

  • Scholar of the Year  –
    Dr. Hye Jin Yoon
  • Service Exemplar   –
    Professor Mark Allen
  • Teaching Innovator  –
    Professor Cheryl Mendenhall
  • TAI Research Fellows  –
    Dr. Sidharth Muralidharan and Dr. Carrie La Ferle
  • Professor Inspiring Excellence
  • Student Support Superstars –  
    Dr. Alice Kendrick, Professor Mark Allen, and Professor Willie Baronet
  • Adjunct Professor Extraordinaire  – Gordon Law
Awards Lunch Room
Dr. Edwards on Stage

Step Away From the Google Doc: Fostering True Collaboration

Step Away From the Google Doc
Fostering True Collaboration
by TAI Professor Amber Benson

 

Today, Jeff Bridges will deliver the final talk in the SMU Tate Distinguished Lecture series. Most college students know Jeff Bridges for his role as The Dude in the cult movie The Big Lebowski. Your film professors would probably remind you that he is also a seven-time Academy Award nominee, with a win in 2010 for his starring role as a down-on-his-luck musician in Crazy Heart.

But my first memory of Jeff Bridges was seeing him in a quirky science fiction movie called TRON. In it, Jeff Bridges plays Kevin Flynn, a computer hacker that gets digitized–by a laser, no less–and trapped inside a mainframe computer. While there, he partners with other programs to break free and keep himself from de-rezzing (or dying). The special effects, which look like a bad 80s nightclub to a modern-day viewer, were groundbreaking. Although Disney updated the franchise (and Bridges reprised his role) in 2010, it’s worth checking out the original.

Or you could just visit one of my classes. Because I think the ghosts of TRON haunts the halls of Umphrey Lee.

Recently, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Whenever I encourage my students to work in groups, I watch as they circle up their desks, fire up their laptops and then go radio silent. They are sitting right next to one another, yet they are miles apart. And I know exactly what’s going on.

They are trapped in a Google Doc.

As a professor of digital advertising, I encourage my students to use technology to their advantage. I just wonder if that confab of multi-colored cursors in your browser is helping you achieve your goals. Sure, you are creating a document together, but are you actually creating value?

Value creation is at the heart of the advertising industry. As advertisers we create that value by turning insights into ideas. And to do that, we need to bring various perspectives to bear on the challenges our clients give us. And that requires more than mere collaboration. It requires dialogue.

The word dialogue has Greek origins, its roots are “dia,” which means “through” and “logos” which means “speech.” Dialogue literally means to “pass through speech.” It is the literal exchange of words that propels ideas forward.

Imagine that I give you a small piece of moldable clay and tell you to create a bust of Abraham Lincoln. You could try to do it yourself. You could make your best attempt and then give it to someone else to revise or edit. In the end, you might achieve your goal, but a linear, sequential process leaves little room for inspiration or optimization.

Alternatively, by working collaboratively, gathering team members and talking through the challenge, you are far more likely to achieve your goal and to do it in a shorter amount of time. Why? Like atoms bouncing off of one another, insights create energy when they are combined.  And once you hit on the perfect combination, that clarity provides momentum. When everyone fully “gets” the concept, then you delegate tasks without losing cohesion.

At one point in TRON, Kevin Flynn says, “On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy.” Collaboration software, such as Google Docs and Slack, can be useful tools in coordinating team member contributions, but they cannot think for you. And that focus on finishing the assignment rather than solving the problem is “de-rezzing” your grades.

So, next time you get a group assignment, step away from the Google doc and toward a white board. Grab a pack of Post-Its and a Sharpie. Visualize your data. Start a dialogue.

Escape the machine.

TAI professor Amber Benson is a results-driven marketing executive and consultant with over 15 years of varied and progressive experience in strategy development, digital marketing, e-commerce and corporate communications. Benson is dedicated to building successful brands through design thinking, strategic intuition and relentless innovation.