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Three UT Advertising Students Attend AAF's Most Promising Minority Students Program

Three fourth-year students from the undergraduate advertising program at The University of Texas at Austin, Jaime Cheng, Ghada Soufan and Dennis Haynes, were selected to attend the 2014 Most Promising Minority Students Program, hosted by the American Advertising Federation (AAF). Taking place in February, these students were flown to New York City after being selected out of nation-wide applicants.

The program was developed in response to the advertising industry’s concerns regarding top minority talent in entry-level positions. It connects the ad industry with 50 outstanding minority career candidates from universities across the nation every year and includes a career fair, agency immersions, and mentor workshops. Students are challenged to think about diversity as it relates to the workplace and leadership.

“Everyone involved in the conference was inspiring to be around and motivated you to go after your passion," said senior Ghada Soufan. "The dialogue between us on diversity and inclusion all were some of the best conversations I've ever had with people in the industry.”

The exposure to advertising professionals proved to be an invaluable learning experience for many of the students, including senior Jaime Cheng.

“I loved the agency visits and meeting the people who worked there. It was an extremely humanizing experience for me,” said Cheng. “I had seen these people with my dream jobs as some kind of celebrity figures, but they were all once students like us who had just worked their butts off.”

Given the program’s focus on diversity, students learned much about how diversity affects the industry.

“I learned a lot about how diversity brings about new ideas, insights and even ways of producing work. In fact, diversity is so important that oftentimes ad agencies have a “Chief Diversity Officer” to ensure there is enough,” noted Cheng.

By having an open dialogue about the influence of diversity on the industry and the American population, students furthered their understanding of diversity itself and its role in advertising.

“Diversity isn't just the color of the skin or where you're from; it's about being able to think multiculturally and be inclusive of different cultures and backgrounds. The ability to apply that thinking to advertising makes the work that much stronger as it becomes more reflective of the general population,” said Soufan.

For other minority students pursuing a career in advertising, Cheng strongly recommends considering the Most Promising Minority Students Program.

“This was an incredibly eye-opening experience. It was awesome to represent The University of Texas and see who represented other schools,” said Cheng.

Soufan advised to all, “Champion diversity of thinking wherever you go; the ability to apply a unique perspective to various challenges and work within the ad industry will take you far.”

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Staff Writer

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Kathleen Mabley at 512-232-1417