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APSU marketing and graphic design collaboration provides nonprofits with marketing campaigns

Student Dulce DelaRosa working at Hatch Show Print as part of the Marketing team's research.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Austin Peay State University marketing and graphic design students experienced a little cross-disciplinary collaboration, similar to working in a real-world agency, last semester thanks to an innovative collaboration between the College of Business and the Department of Art + Design.

Rachel Bush, associate professor of art + design, and Dr. Terry Damron, APSU assistant professor of marketing, partnered last fall to offer the service-learning course to students in their respective disciplines.

Serving nonprofit clients YaiPak, Make Nashville and the Clarksville-Montgomery County Arts & Heritage Development Council, Damron’s three marketing teams conducted the interviews and research necessary to develop creative briefs for Bush’s creative teams. Two creative teams developed a campaign for each client, leaving the client with the challenging task of choosing just one campaign to adopt.

The idea for the collaboration developed when Bush, reflecting on her practitioner experience, observed a learning gap between marketing strategy and graphic design. She wanted to better prepare students for real-world scenarios by creating an environment that combines strategy and creativity. She decided to reach out to APSU’s marketing department to gauge interest in a potential collaboration.

“I wanted to be a part of what I felt was the best solution for our students,” Bush said. “Placing them in an environment that closely mimicked a real-world scenario with a real-world client gave them a chance to think outside the box, be ambitious without the worry of failure and prepared them for partnerships that they’ll encounter after graduation.”

Students were organized into groups, one marketing team for every two design teams, and given a nonprofit client to begin building their campaigns. The marketing teams began with research, scheduled time with the client, and developed a creative brief the client then approved.

“Learning through experience has been more rewarding than I expected,” Dulce DelaRosa, APSU marketing student, said. “This project has taught me more than any other marketing class I have taken. Not only because I was able to apply what I was learning to a real-life situation, but I gathered more confidence to make decisions and execute them with my team. This experience has taught me how to behave and speak like a professional in person and on paper. I know the benefits of taking feedback, the importance of networking, and the understanding of workplace culture. This is something I will carry on to utilize in my current job.”

Upon completion of the creative brief, the marketing teams articulated the client problem, goal, core message and communication recommendations to their creative teams to help bring the strategy to life.

“For the College of Business, it meets our mission,” Damron said. “We’re a teaching-focused institution, so we know high-impact practices like this are the best way to deliver meaningful experiences for our students. The other part is serving our Nashville and Clarksville communities. We want that community integration. So, when I looked at it, this offering fit perfectly with what we’ve identified as the mission of our college.”

The students’ work throughout the semester culminated in a final presentation of the campaigns.

“They did an exceptional job that went above what we could have asked or imagined,” Sherry Nicholson, YaiPak Founder and CEO, said. “They were very professional and very concerned about making sure to represent our desires with excellence. The whole experience was a joy!”

It was apparent that both Bush and Damron were proud of the work their students had completed and were pleasantly surprised by the added benefits that helped students foster their professional development. They plan to continue to look for opportunities like this to bring to the APSU campus.

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