Story by Margaret Connors
Photos by Polly Irungu
Graphics by Karly DeWees
I vividly remember taking The Creative Strategist my first year as a declared advertising major. I’d heard so much about it from other students, but I still didn’t know quite what to expect. Everyone who had taken it seemed to have a different outlook, a different side to the story about the class. But all their perspectives had one thing in common: sheer excitement and fervency about taking their first steps into the intensive upper-division courses in the SOJC.
And now I know why.
Right off the bat, Carolyn Silva Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising Deborah Morrison exuberated bravery, brilliance and creativity that was so contagious I could feel it. The course is well structured but somehow chaotic enough to be exciting. Each day I walked into class, I never knew what I would walk out with. It usually left some new exciting ideas mustering in my brain, or some type of novel and colorful way to look at the industry.
The day’s source of inspiration might be your own personal story, or a brand or campaign you’d never heard of. Books, movies, ad clips — all these little bits of information come at you, and all you want to do is collect as many as you can. My notebook was chock full of creative and insightful saying and quotes from Morrison and other creative professionals, including Brock Kirby, Alex Morrison and David Ewald, who came to speak with us during the term.
Even after a year of taking the course, I still go back and read the insights I collected in my notebook.
I learned that it’s important to understand your own story and tell it well, to find out what is interesting about you. It taught me to think hard about what mattered the most to me and then find ways to artfully and confidently tell that story.
I learned that breaking away from what you’re used to is of the utmost importance. If you’re not scared or nervous, then you’re doing it wrong.
And I learned all about the realities and great possibilities of the idea industry.
Morrison is as exuberant about this class as her students. “I love the discovery process that happens in the class,” she said. “I think The Creative Strategist is different than intro classes at other universities because they are more proscribed. In The Creative Strategist, there’s no textbook. The best things I’ve heard about the class are that it helped the students ask better questions about what they want to be. The Creative Strategist makes students excited about the possibilities that are out there.”
At the beginning of this fall term, Morrison tweeted, “First day of class for #uocreativestrat & we need advice, wisdom, opinion! We’ll scroll thru at noon. Give us your best, grads & seniors! ?”
Here are 10 of my favorite responses to that tweet from SOJC seniors, grads and professionals:
1. Alex Morrison: @Alex_Z_Morrison
@debkmorrison big moment for them to understand the importance of being catalysts out in the world. Don’t perpetuate, innovate.
2. Darcie Burrell: @darcieburrell
@debkmorrison having an audience always got in my head. Find out what you’d make if you never had to show it to anyone
3. Karly DeWees: @miss_karlyd
Learn. Fail. Fail. Fail. Grow. If there isn’t a job for u out there, then create one. ALWAYS send thank u card. Trust me. #UOcreativestrat
4. Maddie Kirby: @maddiekirby
@debmorrison If you can’t choose which job to take, take the one that scares you the most.
5. Andrew Eddie: @theandreweddie
@debkmorrison step outside your comfort zone every once in a while. It’s where you learn more about yourself & life. #uocreativestrat
6. Ben Salaman: @bsalaman15
@debkmorrison -Never say I can’t do this -Be KIND, the network is real -Read read read and read some more (Deb has some great recommendations)
7. Amy MacMillan: @mirsmacmil
@debkmorrison #uocreativestrat learn about the business value of empathy and progressive ideas. Be able to defend goodness with metrics.
8. Chris Drachkovitch: @cdrachkovitch
@debkmorrison –Focus on why an idea worked, not what the idea was –Understand how clients’ businesses operate –solve REAL problems
9. Chelsea Coleman: @chelseaLcoleman
@debkmorrison being well-versed in past advertising is important but immerse yourself in art, film, music, lit – find themes & inspo there
10. Ryan Levenson: @RyanHLevenson
@debkmorrison #uocreativestrat Work on every great idea. Now is the time to fail. If you have a great idea, make some friends and get to work.
Margaret Connors is a senior studying advertising with a concentration in photojournalism. This is her first year interning for the SOJC Communication office. Previously, she was an intern for The Big Issue SA, for which she traveled around South Africa finding stories and learning about the industry. She is eager to create ethical, authentic and passionate work to share with the world. You can follow her on Instagram @marge.elizabeth and view her work at margaret-connors.squarespace.com.
Polly Irungu is a multimedia journalist and social media strategist who graduated from the SOJC with a degree in journalism in December. She is currently working as a social media intern for NPR in Washington, D.C. During her final year of school, she was a digital content creator for the SOJC’s Communications team, a campus editor-at-large at The Huffington Post and a freelance production assistant for the PAC-12 Networks. She has also been published on CNN, KVAL and YesJulz. A National Association of Black Journalists fellow in 2015 and 2016, she participated in the NABJ and National Association of Hispanic Journalists student newsroom to provide coverage of their historic joint convention for NABJ Monitor and Latino Reporter. She also worked in the Online News Association’s student newsroom in September 2016. Previously, she has worked for TrackTown USA, Def Jam Records, Dell and Adobe. She made the 2013 and 2014 Daily Emerald Ducks Who Will Change the World list, and in May 2015, she was named the Women4Africa International Young Achiever of the Year. You can view her work at www.pollyirungu.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @pollyirungu.
After graduating from the SOJC with honors in December 2016, Karly DeWees moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in advertising. During her time in the SOJC, she honed her graphic design skills as a design intern for the SOJC Communications Office and her photography skills shooting macro photos in Alaska for the Science and Memory project as well as local sports games for KVAL.com. You can view her work at karlydewees.com.