Capstone brings industry experience into the classroom


Contributed by: Carolyn Hauschild

“After the trade show, the client and the instructor rank on who is the company going to hire. They got to pick which one met your needs the most. So then they rank the agencies. And then after that, the agencies start working on different challenges for the client. So they all get the same challenge,” Tanya Ryan said.

Sophia Sailer, Editor-in-Chief

The graduating public relations and advertising students’ last assignment is “stressful yet rewarding” as students finish their capstone.

Tanya Ryan, Mass Communication Department Chair and professor, explained what MCOM460 Campaigns is and its goals.

“It’s all the PR [public relations] seniors and all of the advertising seniors. And first thing I have them do is submit a resume and submit a skills assessment survey. Then I review and I split everybody into teams. I make them equal with different skill sets and experiences that the students have,” Ryan said.

Ryan continued, stating that once students are set into teams, they create their own agencies and begin presenting to the company, Cameron’s Coffee.

The teams present pitches (a presentation showing their method of persuasion to advertise a product to Cameron’s Coffee’s audience) to the client and instructor.

“After the trade show, the client and the instructor rank on who is the company going to hire. They got to pick which one met your needs the most. So then they rank the agencies. And then after that, the agencies start working on different challenges for the client. So they all get the same challenge,” Ryan said.

Ryan talked more about the company she chose for the class itself, explaining the process and how they landed on the specific client.

“The client has to meet certain criteria. For example, they have to be national, and they have to have a certain million-dollar annual budget for advertising and marketing. That’s why we don’t use local, smaller clients because it has to be big. And once we get the client on board, I spend probably a good amount of time outside before the class just getting the client,” Ryan said.

This year, the client is Cameron’s Coffee, but in the past, companies such as Target, Best Buy and Mall of America have also been clients for the class.

Hannah Foley, the shopper marketing manager at Cameron’s Coffee discussed why they chose to work with the capstone class.

“We were connected to Tanya and liked the idea of working with students to help get a fresh and broader perspective on our marketing,” Foley said.

Foley talked about the great experience that they have had working with the students, recommending any brand to do the same in future years.

“The students are taking the work seriously. It’s so cool to hear their ideas and questions and opinions. They help spark ideas that we are going to apply directly to our business or adapt and build out,” Foley said. “Their curiosity and enthusiasm are like a breath of fresh air. Tanya has done a great job running the project to make sure it’s mutually beneficial. I’d recommend engaging with this program to any brand.”

Foley also talked about the different assignments that the students must accomplish.

“We set three challenges for the student agencies. They are real opportunities for us that we chose to present to the students specifically because we wanted more bandwidth and brain power behind them. We genuinely take the student agency work into consideration with our marketing planning. After the trade show and each challenge we give feedback to the students,” Foley said.

Liz Perry, a fifth-year student majoring in public relations and minoring in sustainability, talked about her experience in the capstone class.

“The capstone experience has been challenging so far. Winona State goes hard when it comes to our capstone. Unlike most other schools who only make one pitch, we make and present three pitches in one semester. Each challenge has a quick turnaround and can be very stressful. Fortunately, I have a great agency and we work very well together. It was exciting to see everything come together, and it felt very rewarding once it was done,” Perry said.

Mattie Slavin, another student in the class, agreed that the experience has been challenging but rewarding as well.

“The students are taking the work seriously. It’s so cool to hear their ideas and questions and opinions,” Foley said. (Carolyn Hauschild)

“This class has been very fun and interesting but challenging. I have learned so much about what a possible day-to-day may look like in this field. It has shown me how much work and collaboration goes into this field. On the other hand, it has shown me how fun and interesting it can be,” Slavin said.

Marcus Paoli, a fourth-year student majoring in public relations and minoring in advertising, talked about the challenges that he has faced.

“One of the biggest challenges I would say has been having my ego checked. I went into this class assuming that I knew a lot about public relations and advertising, and then when we put a lot of effort into our actual campaign and then pitch it and it comes back and half are critiques and they don’t love your campaign more than somebody else’s, It’s been really challenging,” Paoli said.

Paoli commented that this class has helped him with his career more than any other class, continuing onto why.

“It’s changed my perspective on how subjective things can be. One client can want something and then the next client may want the same thing, but they both want to do totally opposite techniques and strategies. Just the inner workings of client relationships, that has all been totally different has totally changed my perspective,” Paoli said.

CJ Weaver, a fourth-year student studying advertising, talked about how this class has challenged him.

“This has been a good experience for me because it has helped me get better about my fear of public speaking. Our professor always tells us that our program is way more difficult for this Capstone because most colleges would just do either one campaign or they’ll just go to a trade show. And we’re doing three campaigns and a trade show. So I’d say it’s pretty rewarding so far,” Weaver said.

Weaver stated that this class has helped him understand the industry more, saying that public relations and advertising work together throughout the class.

Continuing, Weaver said that students should take this class, as it is very beneficial.

“If you are taking the class, prepare for a challenge, but a rewarding challenge,” Weaver concluded.