Learning Goes Both Ways With Visiting Professors

AEF Program Brings Instructors Into Agency Settings

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Bill Imada Bill Imada
Last year, I joined the board of the Advertising Educational Foundation, an organization that serves the advertising industry by providing and distributing educational content to further the public's understanding of its role in culture, society and the economy. The board comprises a virtual who's who in the advertising world and includes leaders from the most well-known names in the industry. Senior execs from DDB, Deutsch, DraftFCB, Euro RSCG Worldwide, Grey Global Group, JWT North America, Saatchi & Saatchi, Y&R and many others grace the team that supports the work of AEF.

As an AEF board member, I learned about a faculty internship program known as the Visiting Professors Program. When I first heard of this program, my first thought was: faculty interns? What a concept. I later realized that if agencies can offer great internship opportunities for students and grads, then it makes perfect sense that these same agencies can offer internships for college and university faculty. College professors have a great deal of influence over college and university students (and their parents) as they navigate the endless number of potential career opportunities ahead of them. And since a number of colleges lack departments that focus exclusively on advertising, these visiting faculty members often gain valuable information about the advertising industry that is passed on to students and parents.

AEF selected 16 extremely impressive professors for this year's program to serve as faculty interns at the aforementioned advertising agencies. And, while many of these professors have limited to no experience working in advertising or marketing, they bring a wealth of experience in other areas that can be very beneficial to advertising agencies -- large, medium and small. IW Group was fortunate to be able to host one of the selected professors, Dr. Shilpa Dave, who is an assistant professor of American Studies at Brandeis University. As an expert in the South Asian and Asian/Pacific American communities and how they have influenced pop culture in America, Dr. Dave brought a fresh perspective on how stereotypes have hurt Americans of all backgrounds in their communities, at work, within academic institutions and in the mass media.

During her visit, she convened a lunch-hour lecture titled "Why Are Harold and Kumar Friends?" which highlighted the often absurd yet hauntingly familiar stereotypes often associated with East Asians and South Asians in the hit movie "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." Harold and Kumar, aptly portrayed by Korean-American actor John Cho and South Asian-American actor Kal Penn, focuses on the life of two 20-something roommates who would rather spend time partying than working. And Dr. Dave acutely pointed out that their antics fly in the face of what most Americans might view as Asian.

Asian-American stoners? Party boys? Asians that lack work ethic? None of these traits quite fit the mold of a true model minority. And while many Americans might believe that being a model minority in the U.S. is enviable, this designation has actually had a negative impact on the greater Asian-American community.

While there are a large number of Asian Americans who have attained a college degree, a large percentage continues to struggle to stay in school. Additionally, more than 14% of the entire Asian-American community lives below the poverty line, making a college education even more of a challenge to afford.

Faculty internships offer a unique opportunity to promote advertising as a viable profession and can also be extremely beneficial to advertising executives and staff. VPP is certainly a program worth considering. For a very small and reasonable sponsorship fee, advertising agencies can host a visiting faculty member who is truly interested in advertising, marketing and communications. Each visiting faculty member is required to offer a lecture to your staff on a topic that he or she has taught or has written about as a member of the faculty. In Dr. Dave's case, she worked closely with me and other members of our team to ensure that her topic would be interesting, compelling, timely and relevant to our work. And from the reactions of our agency teams, it was. Additionally, the visiting professors, if asked, will provide their feedback, counsel and ideas on a wide range of topics. Dr. Dave did just that, and we are a better agency because of her interest and active participation.

Although our time with Dr. Dave lasted only for two weeks, we have valued her contribution to our agency and hope to host another faculty member in the future.

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