Media Sandbox Michigan State University

Advertising Grad Wins a National Silver ADDY

June 20th, 2017

Recent advertising graduate Savannah Benavides ’17 reeled in a National Silver ADDY after hooking the judges with her witty 3-ad campaign for Ugly Stik, a company specializing in fishing tackle. The campaign had previously won a Gold ADDY at the local level and a Silver ADDY at districts, propelling her work to the national stage.

“I was really surprised, but mostly I was excited,” said Benavides. “It felt awesome to receive recognition for some of my work, but I was even more excited to work harder in order to create more for my portfolio. Winning awards is really nice, but it’s so important to learn as much as you can in the process.”

Benavides 1

Fishing for Ideas

Benavides’ winning campaign was produced as an assignment for an introductory copywriting class she took her junior year under the direction of Lou Schiavone. For this particular assignment, students were to create advertisements for a brand of their choice. Benavides decided on Ugly Stik because of the challenge it would present her, and went to work on a list of ideas.

“My creative process is, in a word, exhaustive,” said Benavides. “I do my best to get out all of my ideas on paper as quickly as I can. My best ideas come when I’m rapid-firing them onto a piece of paper or into a blank document.”

Benavides 2

Benavides decided to poke fun at the fisherman stereotype and produce a humorous campaign that would resonate with the target consumer audience. As the idea was further developed into three advertisements, Benavides gained constructive feedback whenever possible.

“Each step of the way, I had amazing peers and mentors giving me feedback, including criticism,” said Benavides. “It’s been so helpful to receive the insight and opinion of others, because it helps build me into a better creative.”

Enjoying the Ride

Benavides admits that she wishes she would have known the importance of finding fun in her work earlier on. In fact, her best work came when she stopped stressing and started producing because she wanted to.

Benavides 3

“Of course, getting an education at Michigan State is something to be taken seriously, but it was so important for me to find the time and energy to fall in love with my work and the creative process,” said Benavides. “I really think the most vital part of the creative process is to be in love with it and to enjoy every minute of it.”

Benavides advises other students to pursue their passions and take pleasure in the process.

“Find a way to feel comfortable having fun and enjoying the field that you chose to pursue,” said Benavides. “But if you don’t enjoy the field that you’re in, change it. Life is short.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets

Advertising Grads Win a National Gold ADDY

June 16th, 2017

“When work needs doing, leave it to the ladies. And keep a cold one waiting.”Flyer

These are the words, accompanied with expertly designed graphics, that earned Lauren Cutler ‘16 and Matt Richter ‘16 a National Gold ADDY. During an intensive advertising portfolio workshop, the then-students were given a creative brief to invent a micro-brewing company that is by women, for women: Lumberjane Brewing Co. was born.

“Our strategy in this campaign was to address the archaic “just for men” culture surrounding beer, so we created a microbrewery brand specifically for middle-class, hard-working women,” said Cutler, a junior art director at Güd Marketing in Lansing. “We created a campaign that is caught between delicate and rugged, for a semi-feminine beer with a punch of attitude.”

Brewing Success

The campaign has been wildly successful. Lumberjane is the winner of a Gold ADDY for Integrated Campaigns, a Gold ADDY for Packaging and a Judge’s Choice Award at the 2017 Mid-Michigan ADDY Awards Show. Following its success at the regional level, Lumberjane has gone on to win a District 6 Silver ADDY, as well as the National Gold ADDY, which Cutler accepted at the awards show in New Orleans on June 10.

3 Bottles“I have a few other ADDYs, but this one being a national award definitely takes the cake,” said Richter, who is currently interning at 360i in New York City. “ADDYs are great resume builders, and they definitely substantiate your work.”

While Cutler served as Lumberjane’s art director, Richter was the copywriter – though the distinction between their roles was often blurred. Cutler accredits much of the project’s success to the collaborative effort between Richter and herself.

“Concept development is the most important part, and both Matt and I spent a lot of time making sure the goals of the campaign completely lined up with the way we would execute it,” said Cutler. “I think that’s why it’s been so successful.”

The Summer Intensive Workshop

Lumberjane was created entirely in the realm of ADV 455, the Intensive Portfolio Workshop that is only offered during the summer semester. Cutler admits that the workshop is not for the faint-of-heart, as it is held Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m.‒5 p.m.Bottle Logo

“The Intensive Portfolio Workshop is an absolute must for creative advertising students,” said Richter. “It’s the closest you will ever get to working in an agency while still in school. Deadlines are strict, it involves a lot of late nights and you will regularly get scolded, but at the end of it all, you will have some really great work to show off to recruiters.”

While Cutler advises other students to “Have fun, work hard and believe in what you do,” Richter wants advertising students to take advantage of everything the program has to offer.

“Do everything. Take the summer Intensive Portfolio Workshop,” said Richter. “It’s not just a great portfolio builder, it gives you a taste of what work will be like after school. It also leads to the creation of great relationships with people like Henry Brimmer, Ross Chowles and Lou Schiavone. These aren’t normal professors. These are people who will bend over backwards to get you a job, because they believe in you.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets

ComArtSci Brings Home 5 Emmy Awards

June 15th, 2017


Well, actually, five awards. ComArtSci faculty and WKAR colleagues brought home five wins from the 2017 Regional Emmy® Awards on Saturday, June 10, at the MotorCity Sound Board Theater in Detroit.

J-School Wins

Two ComArtSci faculty members, Troy Hale, professor of practice in the School of Journalism (J-School) and the Department of Media and Information, and Geri Alumit Zeldes, associate professor in the J-School and director of journalism graduate studies, brought home an Emmy for their project “Run Jump Paddle.” The 27-minute documentary follows the experiences of three extreme athletes, each in their own relentless environment.

“Troy came up with the idea to follow extreme athletes as they become one with the environment,” said Zeldes. “We, the team, brainstormed and found three athletes, exemplary of the concept of taking on animalistic qualities to become one with nature.”

The team also included two students, who have since graduated: Jennifer Berggren ‘14, who served as the films’s director and editor, and William Bridgforth ‘15 as the cinematographer.

The documentary developed from a pitch given to The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, in response to an open call for projects. The Center agreed to fund the film.

“I think they liked it because it wasn’t the “normal” environmental film,” said Hale. “We tried to make a fun film that had an environmental message, but was entertaining first.”

Castellucci and Zeldes at the Emmy Awards

Castellucci and Zeldes at the Emmy Awards

The J-School’s Mike Castellucci, professor of practice, also brought home a win for his 6-minute video called “Steam Medicine.” The documentary follows Kim Springsdorf, who heads the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, MI, and was shot entirely on Castellucci’s iPhone.

This was Castellucci’s first time entering the solo journalist category, though he has won Emmys in five different regions across the country.

“I specifically entered this category for the JRN school to show students that you can shoot a broadcast quality, award-winning story on your phone,” said Castellucci. “I usually want my iPhone work to compete against everybody else in the business who have two-person camera crews and who use broadcast cameras and equipment.”

J-School faculty members have a combined total of nearly 55 Emmy Awards. This is Hale’s 23rd, Zeldes’ third and Castellucci’s 22nd Emmy win. According to Zeldes, these awards hold great significance for the J-School.

“It means they have professors who can compete with professionals in real time,” said Zeldes. “It means that the School of Journalism is a destination for outstanding storytelling.”


WKAR brought home three Emmys for their original productions “Curious Crew” and “Evening with the Governor.”

Tim Zeko, executive producer, and Rob Stephenson, host and writer, accepted the Emmy in Children/Youth/Teens – Program/Special for the “Curious Crew” episode “Wheels and Axles.” The award for Interview/Discussion went to the host and producer for “Evening with the Governor,” Tim Skubick.

Michigan State University Athletics Spartan Vision productions won another four awards, bringing the Spartan total to nine Emmys. These awards recognize excellence in the television industry, and Michigan State was certainly in the spotlight this year.

By Kaitlin Dudlets 

ADDY Awards 2017

March 23rd, 2017

Each year, young creatives from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences submit their work in the hopes of winning an ADDY Award. The annual award ceremony is organized by the American Advertising Federation and the Mid-Michigan Creative Alliance and recognizes students and professionals for their work in TV, print, design and digital.

Above: Ad created by Madison Johnson for her brand “Bad Habits Brewing Company,” won her a Gold ADDY and Judge’s Choice award. She won 11 awards in total.

The submitted works were judged by a panel of professional advertising creatives, including Andy Azula, the creative director and vice president at The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia; Silver Guellar III, from Van Winkle + Associates in Atlanta, Georgia; and Melanie Wiesenthal, a partner at Deerfield, a branding and design studio that focuses on fashion and beauty in Brooklyn, New York.

Eric Schwartz, advertising senior and Silver ADDY winner, looks forward to the ADDYs each year, as they promote and reward students in the MSU Department of Advertising + Public Relations and local professionals for their hard work.

The ADDYs to me is such a great way to celebrate the work that students do in and outside of the classroom, and the hard work that professionals are doing in the industry just down the road,” said Schwartz. “The students in the creative concentration within the advertising program are small and few, so having an event to celebrate and bring all of us together is really special – it’s a family reunion of sorts.”

This year’s entries included ads for Fruit of the Loom, Walgreens, Best Buy as well as companies and brands created by the students.

Above: Ad created by Madison Johnson, won a Gold ADDY for TV Advertising and an Excellence in Diversity award.

Students stole the show with stunning work

Recent advertising grad Lauren Cutler was awarded a Gold ADDY for work on a brand she created called Lumberjane, with fellow student Matt Richter. The brief they were given was to create packaging and advertising for a brewing company – for women, by women. Cutler also won a Judge’s Choice award for the brand, which she was excited to receive from judge Andy Azula.

lumberjaneThis year’s ADDYs was really wonderful. The student work was exceptional, even compared to last year’s,” said Cutler. “The most rewarding part of the whole experience is seeing your classmates and friends be recognized for the awesome stuff they do and to celebrate all our hard work together!”

A total of 60-plus awards were given to students in MSU’s Advertising + Public Relations program this year. However, if this were the Olympics, senior Madison Johnson would be Michael Phelps. She left the ADDYs as the most decorated student of all time. With 11 awards, ranging in color from Bronze to Gold and a Judge’s Choice, Johnson said she felt very lucky.

The awards I am most proud of are my Judge’s Choice and Best in Show for Bad Habits Brewing,” said Johnson. “I created the project over the summer in the Intensive Portfolio Workshop with Henry Brimmer and Lou Schiavone, but kept working on it afterward which is something that I should do with all my projects. Because I spent so much time on it, refining and adding, it was really great to get recognized for the hard work.”

Another honorable mention includes Tiffany Nagy’s “Coming Out” film trailer, which won gold for Television Advertising.

Above: Ad created by Tiffany Nagy, won gold for Television Advertising.

Celebrating creative work

Ross Chowles, professor of practice in the MSU Department of Advertising + Public Relations, compared having an ADDY award on a resume as “ringing a bell” that the student has something special about them.

You could have a nice portfolio, but having an award starts to ring a little bell that this person is different,” said Chowles. “More important, I guess, is that competitive spirit, that belief in their work. The problem with our business is it’s all of gut feel. It helps
acknowledge your gut feel when someone says ‘Yeah, it’s great’, but even then, it’s the judges’ opinions.”

A Gold ADDY allows the winner entrance into a regional competition and, depending on performance, potentially entered at the national level. We wish our Gold ADDY winning students the best of luck in the upcoming competitions!

View all of the ADDY Award entries on the Mid-Michigan Creative Alliance’s website.


Survivance Nominated at IndieCade 2016

September 28th, 2016

Survivance, a social impact game for healing from historical trauma, is a Nominee at IndieCade 2016, the premier international festival of independent games.

Survivance ( is an Indigenous social impact game that honors storytelling and art as self-determined pathways to healing from historical trauma caused by colonization in Turtle Island (North America). Players listen to storytellers and quest through life in a non-linear journey of creating and returning to teachings in a process of healing.

Survivance is inspired by Anishinaabe scholar and writer Gerald Vizenor’s term that combines survivance with endurance. Racism, discrimination, and unresolved grief from the loss of land, lives, and traditions continues to cause emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual imbalances for indigenous people. In response to these issues, the non-profit organization Wisdom of the Elders, which is based out of Portland, Oregon, in Turtle Island (North America), developed the multimedia health and wellness project Discovering Our Story. Survivance in its game iteration shows that intergenerational exchanges of traditions, stories, and art practices are pathways to wellbeing that influence the player’s sense of self, community, and the greater world, while also fostering a reciprocal relationship with the act of creating.

Producer – Wisdom of the Elders
Designer – Elizabeth LaPensee
Storytellers – Woodrow Morrison Jr., Roger Fernandes, Elaine Grinnell

Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. is an Anishinaabe, Métis, and Irish game developer and researcher. She is an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures in the Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab as well as American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program at Michigan State University. She designed and programmed Invaders (2015), a remix of the arcade classic Space Invaders inspired by art from Steven Paul Judd. She also designed The Gift of Food (2014), a board game for the Northwest Indian College about Northwest Native traditional foods. Her dissertation in Interactive Arts and Technology from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia shares experiences from the Indigenous social impact game Survivance (2011), which encourages ongoing healing through storytelling and creating art.

WKAR and MSU receive Regional Emmy® Nominations

May 20th, 2016

The 38th annual Emmy® nominees have been announced by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences – Michigan, and both WKAR and Michigan State University (MSU) have received nominations.

Six original programs from WKAR received recognition, including Forte (3 nominations), Curious Crew (2 nominations) and 31st Silver Bells in the City.

In addition, MSU faculty from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences brought in nominations for the film Spare Parts and the documentary Living History. Joining them are the Communications and Brand Strategy team with 4 nominations and MSU athletics with 6 nominations.

The Michigan EMMY® represents the most experienced and talented television professionals from all disciplines of the industry and from all of Michigan’s 11 television markets.

The 2016 Emmy® Awards will be presented June 18 at Motor City Casino in Detroit by the Michigan Emmy® chapter of Television Arts and Sciences.

THE CELEBRATION | Alumni Awards Ceremony

April 16th, 2016

The College of Communication Arts and Sciences will honor alumni, faculty and friends at The Celebration, the college’s annual awards dinner and ceremony.

Media Sandbox Creative Challenge winners will also be presented at the banquet.

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Students Receive Record Number of ADDYs

March 14th, 2016

Students in the MSU College of Communication Arts and Science received the highest number of ADDY Awards in the college’s history at the 2016 American Advertising Awards (ADDY) competition. The ADDYs are the advertising industry’s largest competition recognizing creative excellence. The Mid-Michigan Creative Alliance, the local American Advertising Federation (AAF) chapter, hosted more than 250 individuals at the ceremony on February 25th at the MSU Union.


ComArtSci students took home 12 Gold, 21 Silver and 54 Bronze ADDYs, two Judge’s Choice Awards, and the People’s Choice Award.

The three-tier national competition is conducted annually and all Gold ADDY winners will advance to regionals. Winners of regional Gold ADDYs will continue on to nationals. ADDY award entries were judged by Christian Mommertz (Chief Creative Officer at Geometry Global, Germany), Jason J. Smith (President and Creative Director at Magnetry, Arizona), and Marysia Makowska (Associate Creative Director at The Martin Agency, New York). Many of the MSU students receiving Gold ADDYs this year were first-time entrants in the prestigious competition.

Gold ADDY Winners:

Margeaux Phillips (2)
Lanqi Wang
Amy Ruitveld (2)
Congy Han
Shayna Gross
Sarah Goodyear
Amanda Cowherd
Lauren Cutler (2)
Andrew Deneau
“I decided to enter one of my favorite pieces of work from the past year because many of my advertising friends were talking about submitting things,” said Amanda Cowherd, MSU advertising student.

Cowherd was awarded Christian Mommertz’s Judge’s Choice Award. Her submission was a project for an advertising class in which she created her own wine brand, and a trio of wine labels for “Slow Poke.”

“I had adrenaline going for about a half hour after they showed the video of him talking about my wine labels,” Cowherd said.

This year, the People’s Choice Award was also awarded to ComArtSci student Nicole Nalazek. Her winning submission was for promotional design for the East Lansing Farmer’s Market’s Autumn Fest.

“It felt incredible to have people in the community react so well to my work,” Nalazek said.

Cowherd’s advice for students looking to enter the ADDYs is to “believe in your work and take any opportunity that comes your way. Dedicate time to class projects so they can be standout pieces in your portfolio.”

Nalazek advised students to take full advantage of creative professors and to get feedback on the work they are considering submitting.

All professional and student submissions for the 2016 American Advertising Awards can be viewed online at

Creative Challenge Informational Meeting

January 22nd, 2016

(For more information on the Media Sandbox Creative Challenge, please click here.)

Have you been considering participating in the Media Sandbox Creative Challenge? You’ll have the opportunity to help fellow students with some of the harmful issues that many of them face (depression, anxiety, etc.) as well as a chance to win up to $5,000!

There is also an opportunity to work with a professional, alumni mentor; someone successful in the field of communication, who will lend their time to counsel and advise you through the challenge. This is a great chance to network with and to learn from a professional as well as to possibly heighten your chances of winning the Challenge!

So, consider whether or not you’d like to work with one of our wonderful alumni and let us know at the meeting. We’ll assign you a person to work with, and bear in mind that if you agree to work with someone they will be thrilled to work with you and you will be required to communicate with them several times before the end of the Challenge. This is a good thing as they’ll be wonderful for bouncing ideas off!

If you haven’t watched these short videos by professor Karl Gude explanining the challenge, please take a moment to do so before attending the meeting. in the meantime, if you have any questions prior to the meeting, please contact Karl Gude at

What is the Media Sandbox Challenge 

Four reasons why you should do it (including winning up to $5,000)

How to be successful competing in the Challenge

The informational meeting will take place on Friday, January 22nd at 11am in room 184 of CAS!

MSU, ComArtSci and WKAR Teams Bring Home 5 Emmys

June 30th, 2015

Written June 18, 2015

One night. Five awards. A dazzling display of Spartan achievement.

MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences and WKAR took home five Emmy Awards from the Michigan Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The professional awards spanned a broad mix of specialties and skills, and honored both individuals and multidisciplinary teams of faculty, staff and students.

emmys-20150618-hale-grosjean-2015-emmys_0031-wp-2“These awards come around once a year, but they are won with the daily decision to give it everything you’ve got no matter what,” said Susi Elkins, TV Station Manager for WKAR. “Our staff is committed to doing just that and it’s rewarding to have their perseverance recognized by our peers.”

The Emmy Awards were presented June 13 at the 37th annual Michigan Emmy Gala at the MotorCity Sound Board Theatre in Detroit. Of the six people involved in the five projects, a majority were current or former students at MSU.

Accolades in public media often come from the individual viewer, listener or member, so to be judged alongside, and be recognized by, our commercial counterparts is especially gratifying,” said Gary Reid, WKAR Director of Broadcasting.
WKAR and Jon Whiting, Academic Specialist in the Department of Media and Information, received the Emmy for Special Event Coverage (other than News or Sports) for “Home for the Holidays.” The program showcased the annual holiday concert by MSU’s College of Music at the Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall. Whiting is a ComArtSci alumnus, having earned both a B.A. and M.A. in Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media from MSU.

The Emmy for best Documentary – Historical was awarded to 21-time Emmy winner and Academic Specialist Troy Hale from the Department of Media and Information and Editor and Associate Producer Justin Grosjean for “Missing Moon Rocks.” The film documents the search for missing moon rocks that were brought back to Earth by the Apollo Program. Grosjean, a ComArtSci alumnus who worked on the film as a Media Arts and Technology student, was the editor of the film.

The Emmy for Audio was presented to WKAR for “Backstage Pass,” the public broadcasting station’s weekly program that features music made in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. Alumnus Luke Schwarzweller served as the program’s lead audio engineer while a ComArtSci student. Schwarzweller received a B.A. in Media, Arts and Technology in 2011 and is nearing completion of his M.A. in Telecommunication with a concentration in Media and Information Management.
The Emmy for Graphic Arts – Set Design went to WKAR and Production Supervisor Ken Merley for the “Off the Record” set. The weekly program provides public TV coverage of Michigan’s governor’s office, the state legislature, the political campaign trail, and state government.

MSU and ComArtSci alumnus Anthony Siciliano also took home an Emmy for Editor – Program (Non-News) for “360.24: A Day in the Lives of Spartans.” The documentary involved MSU Spartans on six continents and 18 time zones sharing their lives through video on a single day. Siciliano is a Producer, Videographer and Editor for MSU’s Communications and Brand Strategy. He graduated from MSU in 2010 with a B.A. in Digital Media and Technology.
“Emmy Awards show excellence in television,” Hale said. “The fact that MSU, ComArtSci and WKAR teams won these awards really shows the excellence that we strive for here.”

Emmy Award Winners

Special Event Coverage (other than news or sports)
“Home for the Holidays”
Jon Whiting

“Backstage Pass”
Luke Schwarzweller

Graphic Arts – Set Design
“Off the Record” set
Ken Merley

Documentary – Historical
“Missing Moon Rocks”
Michigan State University/Tricky Hale Films/
Troy Hale
Justin Grosjean

Editor – Program (Non-news)
“360.42: A Day in the Lives of the Spartans”
Michigan State University/WKAR
Anthony Siciliano

Michigan State UniversityCollege of Communication Arts and Sciences


MSU Media Sandbox is a creative CURRICULUM and COMMUNITY in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at Michigan State University.