New Program Provides Pipeline for Underrepresented Students in AD+PR

MSU Ignite Introduces High School Students to the World of Advertising and Public Relations

As a field, Advertising and Public Relations aims to represent and convince its audience through ad campaigns, social media and television commercials. However, while this field attempts to represent the people it advertises toward, the industry has struggled to maintain diversity in those who are actually creating the ads. As AD+PR Chairperson and Professor Teresa Mastin, Ph.D., describes, the field is mostly homogeneous. 

“Commercials are either a reflection of society or the guide that directs what’s going on in society. In that regard, it’s important that a good representation of people who are living in that society are making those ads,” said Mastin.

This thought process is what inspired Mastin and her team in ComArtSci’s Department of Advertising + Public Relations to develop MSU Ignite. The pilot program, currently in its first year, aims to close the gap between underrepresented students and potential careers in Advertising and Public Relations. The professor, along with Lauren McKenzie, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and a team of students, have been visiting Communication and Media Arts High School in Detroit since September.

“The basic point is 13 percent of the field, and then 3-5 percent of our college, consists of minorities and minority students. If the numbers in the field are low, we have to decide what we’re going to do about that. We have to increase the numbers here in the college, because right now, we’re perpetuating what the field is already showing,” said Jada Flowers, an advertising senior at MSU.  

The goal of the pilot program is to serve as a potential pipeline into MSU’s AD+PR program at ComArtSci. The students visited the campus on Dec. 2, 2019, as part of an event called Ignite Day, in order to learn about Advertising and Public Relations and see what life is like on campus. Mastin and her team knew the best way to introduce these high school students to the college mindset was to immerse them in the Michigan State experience. Through presentations, campus tours and networking opportunities, these high schoolers got a real feel for MSU’s campus culture.

“Undergraduate pipeline programs are an integral part of recruiting and retaining students from historically marginalized backgrounds and underserved communities. It is critical to offer students the opportunity to explore and experience college without any expectations other than learning and growth,” said Lauren McKenzie, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

“Our goal for MSU Ignite is not just that the students choose MSU and ComArtSci, but that they are making their decision based on the support, relationships and community they can expect when they get here.”

Mastin plans to culminate these school visits with a summer academy pipeline program. Over the course of a week, the students will design an ad campaign with the direction of ComArtSci faculty. The students will then present their work to their parents and peers, for a chance to display their ad campaign in front of the entire student body at the team’s high school. 

“While we do want them to pursue advertising and see what our department is like, we also understand that these students come from backgrounds where college is something their parents may not have done,” said Mastin. “It may or may not have already been a thought to them. We have to transition them to the college mindset, and we are committed to doing that.”

The program plans to offer students added support, through a variety of mentors and connections created with their peers. As the MSU Ignite program grows, the college will begin to search for mentors who can lend their skills and talents to the summer bridge academy. Mastin said anyone who is interested in supporting the program, including current MSU students, can contact her directly for more information. 

By John Castro

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