I never thought the Trix Rabbit would help me get a job.
After all, “Trix are for kids,” not college-educated adults, right? But it’s a lifelong love of whimsical breakfast mascots and their commercial escapades that has made me what I am today: an Advertising & Public Relations major at Grand Valley State University at the outset of his fourth and final year.
I won’t bore you with the fully fortified story, but I have many fond childhood memories of bonding with friends and family over the wacky ads we saw on TV. From Lucky Charms’ purple horseshoes and Heinz purple ketchup to NERF guns and Nintendo games, these 30-second glimpses into imaginatively advertised worlds were as enchanting to me as the Saturday morning cartoons they were sandwiched between.
When I finished high school with no clear career goal and a penchant for writing, I knew one thing for certain: I wanted to re-create these memories for a new generation of kids, and maybe even redeem the often disparaged field of advertising through wholesome nostalgia.
But how could I do it? As an Economics major? A Marketing major? The answer seemed unclear, until I went to a student-to-student Q&A session during my overnight Honors College orientation—at this point, the Honors College had already won me over on its promise of independent learning and its progressive, general education-replacing first-year curriculum—where the wonderful (and recently graduated) Jaclyn Ermoyan told us she was an Advertising & Public Relations major.
I had no idea GVSU offered a full major on just advertising, and after making an eager internal promise to investigate the program, the rest was history. Here I am, 3 years later: president of Grand Valley’s Advertising Club and proud member of the university’s winning National Student Advertising Competition team, with a second major in Writing (to evolve my copywriting), a Gold ADDY Award to my name and a name made for myself in the professional West Michigan advertising community.
So while I quite literally have that night in the Honors College Multipurpose Room to thank for my success and professional satisfaction, that’s far from the only way the school’s innovative educational approach has helped me thrive. During my freshman sequence, Social Product Innovation—still the most challenging (in a good way) course I’ve taken at GVSU—I was taught to tackle socially beneficial entrepreneurship from the ground up. The course showed me the design thinking process, gave me the chance to write an enlightening paper about McDonald’s innovative marketing, and encouraged me to become a self-starter—by crafting a pair of fair trade, fish leather mittens.
How did I use this self-starting stimulus? I created my own cereal blog, a passion project that has brought together hundred of thousands of breakfast lovers across the globe, made me lasting friends, and given me a unique conversation-starter with advertising pros nationwide, who love to hear how someone with a niche interest built a brand for himself from the ground up and learned valuable digital marketing skills in the process.
The takeaway? Take your passion and make it happen. You’ll be surprised by how many doors are opened by demonstrated drive alone—whether you’re writing about Cocoa Puffs, Coney Islands, or carnivorous cryptids.
And while I love GVSU’s Advertising & Public Relations program, I also have my Honors junior seminar to thank for polishing the copywriting skills I’m forever honing. Despite having a different academic focus, Professor Stillerman’s Sociology of Consumption looked at consumerism through the lens of the receiver, helping me better understand how to meaningfully speak to consumer pain points and craft compelling narrative myths through “Cultural Strategy.”
The takeaway here? Look at your field of work from a different angle. An interdisciplinary perspective can help you see the two faces, so to speak, when all you saw before was a face.
I still have a year of university life left, but thanks to the Honors College’s professional environment and refreshingly “non-academic” approach to self-inspired learning, as well as the countless extracurricular engagement opportunities presented through the entire School of Communications, I already feel readily equipped to enter the working world.
So while I don’t know exactly where I see myself in five years, I can see the limitless potential afforded to those who grow communities instead of just going to class. Oh, and I can definitely see why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Dan Goubert is an incoming senior, set to graduate in Spring 2018 with a B.S. in both Advertising & Public Relations and Writing. Dan has a passion for combining his two areas of study and has recently started his third advertising internship in agency copywriting. When he’s not strategizing for Grand Valley Advertising Club or writing academically, Dan can be found geeking out online about the newest Oreo cookie variety or obscurest ’90s Pop-Tart flavor.