In early November of 2016, a select group of students from Michigan State University’s Department of Advertising + Public Relations arrived in Shanghai for the One Show Greater China Festival, a competition organized by The One Club for young advertisers. However, they were far from being the only Spartans in China.
The green and white blood of fellow alumni in the country runs deep. That fact became evident during an evening at the WPP School of Marketing and Communications.
Global Collaborations and Connections
The MSU students and their faculty leader, Henry Brimmer, were joined by Harrison Dong, the dean of the WPP school, his colleagues and several MSU alumni representing Shanghai’s own MSU Alumni Association.
"It was great fun to meet members of the MSU Alumni Association in Shanghai, and to have them intermingle with our students whose work was on display," said Brimmer. "Everyone was very excited to come together as Spartans so far from home base and to realize how far and tight the bond reaches."
The reception at the school celebrated the relationship formed between WPP and MSU during Minds (Wide) Open – a unique competition that has taken place annually since 2015 on the East Lansing campus. The reception also showcased work of MSU students.
Some of Dean Dong’s advertising students have visited Spartan territory for both Minds (Wide) Open events to compete with Brimmer’s students and more in the competition framed by work that The One Club has done at its One Shows. He said the experience in East Lansing was life changing for all students involved.
"(The students) started from strangers to partners then to friends – all in seven days," Dong said. "The experience to my students actually served the real purpose of what Henry designed in the first place – to open their mind, to let them have the bravery, courage…They change, essentially, at the end of the program."
China is home to many Spartans who are both native Chinese and from Michigan. Nicholas Moritz is among them. Originally from Royal Oak, the 2007 graduate now runs a startup in Shanghai. Moritz moved to Shanghai five years ago. He commended the students for taking advantage of the opportunity to get internationally involved.
"I know there’s a few Chinese students in this group, but there’s really a lot of Michiganders - or Midwesterners - that have decided to fly all the way to Shanghai and get themselves involved," Moritz said. "I just couldn’t recommend it any more."
Mo Said, a senior copywriter from Droga5 in New York City as well as an alum from MSU’s Department of Advertising + Public Relations, was selected to be a mentor for students at the One Show Greater China Festival. Maggie Zhang, a recent MSU advertising grad who participated in the 2016 One Show competition, previously met Said during a One Club event in New York City in 2015.
"I was not only happy that he was in Shanghai for the competition, but he was there as my mentor," Zhang said. "It was incredible to work with him especially (because) we had the Spartan bond."
Said stated that the work and attitude of the MSU team he mentored reminded him of what it means to come from the advertising department at the university.
"It was amazing. I couldn't favor them over other teams and they definitely didn't want to be favored either. They wanted to earn their spot, so they worked hard. Really hard. We checked in at 3 a.m. once, I think," he said. "It reminded me why we're so good, because we have the will to outwork anyone else on the field. It also made me a little jealous because when I was in school we didn't have these opportunities. The camaraderie of a group of really, really great students making each other even better was amazing to see."
Representing MSU’s Department of Advertising + PR
Despite the fact that both MSU teams left the One Show Greater China Festival without awards, Said explained that Spartans from MSU’s Department of Advertising + PR are made to do great things. To name one, he said: Being the only international competitors at the event.
"Spartans have an innate grit to them. There's no entitlement. Wearing a green and white shirt gives you a stage, but what you do on that stage is up to you. And that's what makes us different," Said explained.
He continued by saying that every MSU advertising alum that has reached out to him has been a humble, hard worker.
"They don't use MSU Advertising as a badge they can flash and get into places. And as our name grows in the industry, I hope we never lose sight of that," he said. "The program also gives me a great sense of pride when I look at the stuff we're doing. We were the only international school at One Show China, which means we've gotten our foot into doors it doesn't usually belong in. And that's us. Nobody else can do that.”
By Savannah Swix