By Zach Taylor
Columbia, Mo. (May 5, 2020) — The Missouri School of Journalism students aren’t the only ones learning — its professors are learning, too.
Todd Fuller, adjunct professor, prefers to teach in-person. He teaches graduating seniors taking the School’s capstone course AdZou, where they work in small teams to bring fresh perspectives to their research-based campaigns for real companies or organizations for local, regional and national clients.
“I miss being able to interact with students face-to-face,” he said. “It’s more challenging to keep students engaged over Zoom. When everyone’s in the same room together, you can’t turn your camera off or get distracted by the internet so easily.”
But Fuller is making the best of the situation, adapting to make the virtual setting work for him and his students. Before the coronavirus pandemic, he brought in alumni who lived in Columbia to give students feedback on their class projects. Unfortunately, the pandemic put a temporary halt on this beneficial practice, at least in-person.
“When I’ve had former alumni that live in Columbia it’s been easy. I would just have them show up to our class,” said Fuller. “But I’ve always wanted to get some of the students I knew were very successful and out in the industry in other parts of the world to interact with students. Now that I have knowledge of Zoom, this has become possible.”
The Mizzou Mafia, how the School’s alumni affectionately refer to themselves, is strong. They are spread out across the entire world. Being able to tap into this network to bring current and former students in direct contact with each other is a distinct advantage that the School has – thanks to Fuller’s innovative use of Zoom.
This semester, Fuller brought in four former students to give feedback to his AdZou team’s on their advertising campaigns. Each former student has impressive work experience and together they represented the country of Belgium, and the cities of Chicago, New York and San Diego, California.
Sarah Rosselet, BJ ’15, MA ’16, a senior manager of financial communications and media relations for Walgreens Boots Alliance in Chicago, is one of those former students. “I really enjoy connecting with students and recent grads looking to enter the public relations and communications field,” she said. “So much of the work in my career has been in developing campaigns – whether it is a smaller “campaign” to announce a financial event or mitigate the impact of a negative media story, or a larger “campaign” to communicate a merger or acquisition to a company’s various stakeholders, every event a company needs to communicate is in itself a mini-campaign. Working in transactions and financial communications also teaches you a lot about distilling complex information down to the most important information for each audience – which I think was helpful intel for the AdZou teams to hear, having a more complex client with a nuanced audience base.”
While the current students were learning from the former students, the former students were learning as well. Jazmin Burrell, BJ ’15, beauty creative strategy lead for Snap Inc. and founder of Lizzie Della Creative Strategies, wants to be a professor one day. For her, getting to meet with current students was just as beneficial for herself as it was for them.
“I eventually want to get into teaching so I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with the students and speak on the experiences that I’ve had as a young professional in the industry,” she said. “While in the industry, I’ve learned about the power of negotiation, speaking up, always learning and seizing opportunities to better my understanding of the world around me. It was nice to provide details and information that I wish I knew before graduating about navigating the field and the differentiation between titles in the workplace. Talking to the students only further excited me to eventually transition into a career in higher education.”
“Anytime we can get alumni involved in a project it is to our benefit,” said Fuller. “I’ve taught AdZou for 18 years, and even though it wasn’t in person, bringing these impressive professionals into the fold was one of my favorite days ever teaching the class.”
Not only does Zoom help connect current students with alumni, it also allows for AdZou to work with more clients.
“Sometimes a client doesn’t think of us as an option,” said Fuller. “But with Zoom we can work with clients in different geographic locations. Some of the best presentations I’ve ever seen were done on Zoom.”
“Teaching AdZou really keeps me on my toes,” he said. “Every year I learn something new from my students, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Updated: May 5, 2021