SWOOP students work with the ad agency's creators Sheri Broyles and Bill Ford.
When student James Cole, who is majoring in general studies, was looking toward graduation and getting a job in graphic design, he wanted a way to build a portfolio.
Becoming one of the first staff members of SWOOP, a student-managed advertising and public relations agency that opened in UNT's Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism in fall 2011, was a great solution for Cole. When the Office of Admissions became one of the agency's first clients, Cole designed the brochure that about 4,500 high school juniors and seniors and prospective transfer students received when they attended a UNT Preview, a one-day recruitment program sponsored twice a year by the Office of Admissions.
Cole says he spent well over 100 hours working on the brochure.
"This was the biggest undertaking of my college career," he says. "I had real deadlines to meet for a client, and it was a trial by fire. But the pressure to work quickly was good for me."
SWOOP was created by Sheri Broyles, interim chair of the Mayborn School's Department of Strategic Communications, and Bill Ford, a lecturer in the department. The two wanted to create an on-campus opportunity for students to gain experience working on projects related to what they are learning in class. SWOOP is roughly modeled after Boston University's AdLab.
"We provide clients with a full list of services, including branding, graphic, social media, and advertising and public relations, and our staff positions are those that you'd find in most agencies -- account executive, social media planner, art director, copywriter and others," Ford says.
Students must apply every semester to be on the staff, and their job performances determine if they can remain on staff the following semester.
The clients for SWOOP during the fall 2011 semester and this semester include the Denton County Transportation Authority; T.J.'s Pizza, Wings and Things in Denton; Big Box Little Box, a printing company in Irving; and several UNT departments and the School of Public Health at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth. The students meet with their clients in person several times during a project, set project schedules and correspond regularly with the clients about the progress, dedicating up to 30 hours a week on SWOOP projects.
As a SWOOP account executive, senior advertising major Lauren Farquhar is the liaison between the clients and the creative teams. She prepares budget reports, pitches the creative team's ideas and keeps an agenda for each project.
"The work I'm doing has made me feel more confident to go out into the real world," she says. "I know now that this is what I want to do as a career, and the work is adding a great deal to my experience. I couldn't get this training anywhere else."
Broyles says that although students in the Department of Strategic Communications may also work in internships with public relations and advertising agencies in the North Texas region, students who work at SWOOP have the advantage of learning all areas of the agency.
Ford adds that the SWOOP students "get as much, if not more, experience as they do in an internship."
"It's often a shock to them that clients change their minds. They quickly learn that the advertising and public relations world is quite dynamic," he says. "They also can make some mistakes and learn from the mistakes now, get them corrected and not repeat them."
Nancy Kolsti with UNT News Service can be reached at Nancy.Kolsti@unt.edu.