Asia Gholston, a 2012 graduate in media and communication technology, received the 2019 ComArtSci Alumni Board’s Rising Star Award. Gholston is the director of marketing for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. There, she oversees initiatives such as concerts, special events, digital promotion, social media and graphic design for the organization. Born and raised in Detroit, Gholston and her family currently reside in Jacksonville, Florida.
What was your favorite class at ComArtSci?
So, I don't remember the specific class, but I remember an assignment where we had to pick a corporation or brand and write them a letter and see if we got a response. I remember writing a letter to McDonald's, and I got a $50 gift card back. That assignment really stuck with me. Write reviews, people, they will respond.
What was your favorite study spot on campus?
I hope no one judges me, but it was the Holden Hall café. It was because they had the best breakfast, and I always figured that if I'm hungry, I can't really study, so if I study in a spot with food, I can study there all day.
What was your favorite thing to do around East Lansing?
I'm a big foodie, so I'd say trying out the different restaurants in East Lansing. My friends and I had a similar schedule, so we would get Hungry Howies every Tuesday after Math class. I still remember my order being a personal pan pizza with pepperoni, bacon, and banana peppers. I also really liked going to Omi Sushi. I also had a phase where I would get Tropical Smoothie and Little Caesars because they were right next door to each other.
Looking back, I realize that I was a broke college student, so my options were pretty limited. But outside of [the food], attending football games, basketball games, tailgates, and homecoming were also worthwhile memories from my days in East Lansing.
What’s your favorite MSU Memory?
Obama was elected while I attended MSU, and I remember we were all in the café waiting for the results to come in. Then we all stormed the CATA busses and had a big party outside Hubbard hall. That was also the first time we all voted, so that was a huge deal.
So, you earned your degree in media, communication, and technology at ComArtSci, can you speak about how things have evolved in your industry since you graduated and where you foresee things going from here?
Things have evolved so much. I remember one of the first jobs I had after I graduated from MSU was at an agency, and at the time, I worked on sweepstakes on Facebook campaigns. Things like you enter for a chance to win a lifetime supply of Vaseline by liking our Facebook page. So that was my introduction to social media from a brand perspective. When you think about it now, we are so far from that. Influencers are really driving brand participation on these channels, and the stakes are a lot higher.
Even from a budgetary perspective, I remember not long after that I worked at an agency called Carat, where we worked on General Motors. We were doing something for Chevy, and I was on the phone with the COO of Snapchat, trying to push out this message on their platform about Chevy. At that time, Snapchat didn't even have a monetization model, so she said she would love to take our money, but they didn't know how to. So, it's interesting now where brands are spending millions, sometimes billions on social media campaigns, and I can look back and remember calling some of these platforms and asking them to take our money, and they couldn't.
What was your biggest lesson learned during your time at ComArtSci? And what was your biggest lesson after ComArtSci?
The biggest one I learned while at ComArtSci was understanding that there are many verticals to the marketing and advertising landscape. I actually did a study away program in Washington D.C. at BT Networks and came back and realized, 'Oh, there are so many other things that exist within Marketing and Advertising.’ So that was something I learned early on, and from then, my career has grown because I have tried so many different areas of the industry. The only thing I haven't really touched is the creative side because if I ever failed a class in life, it was probably an art class.
After ComArtSci, I would say how important your network is. I've been blessed to have many people within my network. Whether they are mentors or peers, I typically can find someone in my network who can either walk my resume to the front door or connect me with someone where I can ask more in-depth questions about a role that I'm interested in.
Fast forward to the end of your career. It’s your retirement party and everyone is there celebrating your achievements. What do you hope people say about you?
I want people to remember the great work I did. If it were appropriate, something I would say when I went into a job interview and was asked, 'why should you have this job?' My reply was, 'I want to do dope work with great people.' If I can continue to do that throughout my career, that would be my dream retirement party. Like people getting up there and saying, 'Oh! I worked with Asia when we were at L'Oréal, or when we were at the Orlando Magic, or when we painted the town teal in honor of the Jacksonville Jaguars.' Those are the types of stories I would want at my retirement party. Especially because I probably freaked out during all of those projects, and then they turned out to be great.
To those students who are confused, overwhelmed, not sure what they want to do, unsure about what a degree from ComArtSci can do for them, what would your message be to them?
So, what is so great about a degree in ComArtSci is that it doesn't put you in a box. You may be overwhelmed with the possibilities you have with it. Many of my friends have very specific degrees and no shade to them, but people always expect you to stay on that path once you get that particular degree. I think with a ComArts degree; you can do so much. I have never been limited by my degree. If anything, walking into [an interview] and saying I have a degree in media, communication, and technology and a minor in media management research tells them that I can do everything. Don’t be overwhelmed walking into the degree, but understand that the options you have after ComArtSci are unlimited.
By Joe Strother