Summer Break: A college prof heads to work instead of the beach
By: Joan McCain
Program coordinator of the Ad/PR program at UCF
With my oldest child starting college this summer, I decided to not teach a summer course for the first time since 2006 to spend as much time as possible before she started classes during summer session. I decided that in February, and over March’s Spring Break I took a dozen students on a tour of advertising agencies and PR firms in Chicago. I have done the same tour in New York and San Francisco every Spring Break since 2009.
Those tours remind me how much I loved working in an ad agency myself, and I decided to take that nostalgia and use it for, what I called, a “professional sabbatical.” The first agency I thought of calling was Fry Hammond Barr, in downtown Orlando. In my professional life before UCF, the company I worked for hired FHB as its agency, and I recruited and hired Sandra Gerlt, FHB’s associate creative director, to teach Advertising Copywriting as an adjunct.
I called Sandra and asked if I could be an intern in the creative department, writing ad copy three days a week over the summer.
The timing was perfect, as a recent Ad/PR alum, Cesar Vallejo, who had been hired as a copywriter, had gotten accepted into the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP) program, which is a 10-week summer internship program sponsored by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As), and he would be working in Austin, Texas all summer. I could take his place.
So, I started three weeks before Cesar left for his internship to get trained. I went to FHB Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and wrote radio spots, print collateral, digital ads, and print ads for Stein Mart and Nemours Children’s Hospital. I spent 12 weeks as an intern.
I wanted to use this experience to see what has changed and learn new industry practices that I could bring to the classroom. And what has surprised me is how little has really changed. Yes, there are new digital tools for doing things like time sheets and file storage, and Facebook ads now require copywriters to write in Excel in a rigid character count (man, was that a culture shock). But the idea generation, the project management, the relationships between agency and client–none of that has really changed. It’s like riding a bike.
I am extremely grateful to FHB for giving me this opportunity and allowing me to work with its incredibly talented team. And this experience showed me how being an intern is an incredibly learning experience—no matter how old you are.