Ad grads hit big time in Chicago
By Angelia Huntley
J Alumni News staff
As the old saying goes, birds of a feather flock together.
After school, many graduates stay in the area where they grew up. Other students flock to far away states to start their careers.
Many NU advertising graduates have gone to Chicago, which, they say, offers Nebraskans Midwest values but greater job opportunities than they might find in their home state.
Chicago is big enough to offer numerous jobs in a variety of fields. But it is small enough to keep a hometown feeling, Nebraska graduates say.
Sam Eckersley, a 1998 NU graduate in advertising, is a Lincoln native who is an art director at the Townsend Agency in Chicago. Eckersley moved to Chicago for a number of reasons. He said the expanded job opportunities attracted him to Chicago, and he had a few friends who had moved to the city. He said he missed Nebraska but said he had more opportunities in a larger city.
Other NU advertising graduates say they moved to Chicago for the same reasons. For instance, Stacy Fuller, a 1999 NU advertising graduate from McCook, is an assistant account executive at Rapp Collins World Wide. She said Chicago was a good city for people in their 20s working in advertising.
“Almost every (advertising) agency has a Chicago office,” Fuller said. “There are a lot of young people here with a strong social network.”
Sarah Jewell, another 1999 NU advertising graduate, is an assistant media planner at DDB. Originally from Lincoln, Jewell also moved for the larger city and job opportunities. Jewell said Chicago was the right city for her because it was still in the Midwest and close enough to Nebraska for frequent trips home but still far enough away that she was on her own. She also has friends and family in Chicago.
Jean DeShazer, a 1995 NU advertising graduate from Lincoln, works at DePaul University as a director of enrollment publications. She worked in Lincoln for three years after graduation but said she knew she did not want to live in Lincoln for the rest of her life. When she was ready for a bigger city, she moved to Chicago.
Stacy James, an advertising professor at NU, said Chicago was a good place for students.
“It has a Midwestern temperament,” James said. “It is a relatively easy city to live in.” Furthermore, Chicago is not all that far from NU graduates’ alma mater.
The graduates said student internships had helped them prepare for their current jobs. They all highly recommended students take advantage of internship possibilities. Fuller said she did not realize how helpful the internships would be until she started working.
“It’s hard getting your foot in the door,” Jewell said. “Personal contacts and experience get you there.”
Eckersley said NU helped him prepare for his future best through internships.
“I would not have know about internship possibilities without school,” Eckersley said. “They are by far the most important thing.”
James said the advertising program at NU does not require students to take internships, but 80 to 90 percent of advertising students will have internships before they graduate.
The NU grads in Chicago said classes and professors also helped them prepare for their careers. DeShazer said the professors shared a lot of knowledge and experience about the world of advertising. Jewell recalled the Advertising Club as being especially helpful.
“We were able to travel and tour agencies,” Jewell said. Without that opportunity, “we never really would have been able to see how agencies work that were not in Lincoln.”
The graduates said NU has a reputation for quality advertising graduates. Fuller said she learned NU was one of the few schools that offer an advertising major.
“A lot of people were surprised I had an advertising degree,” Fuller said. “Other schools give out journalism degrees with an advertising emphasis.”
DeShazer said NU’s reputation has helped grads get jobs.
“It is definitely known (in Chicago) that NU is a quality school with quality programs.”
With the large number of NU graduates in the Chicago area, it is no wonder they keep in touch. Eckersley said he stayed in contact with many of the NU advertising graduates.
“Now there is a little Nebraska clique going on here,” Eckersley said.
Fuller said even NU grads she didn’t know when she moved to Chicago have become her friends. “We have a really strong connection to each other,” Fuller said. “It is nice to know people who came from the same place as you.”
The graduates agreed the biggest differences between Lincoln and Chicago, besides population and job opportunities, were the entertainment and activities. Jewell said the entertainment is great.
“You can do and see anything and everything you want,” Jewell said. “There is a huge number of activities here.”
“A lot of people are scared to move away from home,” Fuller said. “But you get to know people and get a group of friends. Don’t be afraid.”