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Virginia Commonwealth University's AdCenter, in sending out its first masters degree in advertising graduates this spring, is touting the fact that 10 of the 48 candidates are minority students.

AdCenter Director Diane Cook-Tench says high-profile board directors such as filmmaker Spike Lee and Caroline Jones, president-creative director of Caroline Jones Inc., New York, should help her school continue to attract minorities.

Ad schools are developing their niche by providing potential marketing professionals with important experience and the opportunity to polish their portfolios. School officials say they want to increase minority participation.

Miami (Fla.) Ad School, along with the advertising and graphic design department of the School of Visual Arts, New York, are just two other schools that prepare advertising professionals. Officials from both schools say they have about 30% minority enrollment.

The Miami school offers a two-year program for art directors and copywriters. Most students have undergraduate degrees.


According to VP Pippa Seichrist, all*of the 30 students who graduated in the last year found jobs.

The school encourages minority enrollment by offering scholarships and bringing in instructors representing all facets of the ad industry.

"We try to get ad agency people from different parts of the country [and different] disciplines. They come to teach for a few days -- not to just give a talk," says Ms. Seichrist. "[Students] get to meet all different kinds of role models. Darrin Stevens can't be everybody's role model."

The School of Visual Arts has about 575 students enrolled in its Advertising and Graphic Design department. About 130 students are expected to graduate this year.


At VCU, the graduate studies program offers concentration in account management, account planning, art direction, copywriting and will add a media-planning track in the fall.

There are 110 students enrolled in the school and about 25% of those students are minorities, says Ms. Cook-Tench.

"We have 15 real industry leaders on the AdCenter board. That does not hurt us for internships," says Ms. Cook-Tench. "We also have a mentor program that we've developed with agencies across the country. We have a number of professionals who have adopted a student and are willing to answer e-mail, phone questions and review work."

According to Ms. Cook-Tench, minority students had internship experiences that included working on the Nike campaign from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and a Miller Lite campaign set to break in March from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis.

AdCenter also has a strong tie to the American Association of Advertising Agencies. The Four A's has committed more than $40,000 over four years to provide at least two $5,000 scholarships to minority students per year.

VCU also works with the American Advertising Federation. Three VCU students were among the top 100 of the AAF [in 1997]. ch. One, Cindy Casares, also was one of three students to receive silver pencils in the college competition category of the 1997 One Show.

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