Inspiring Teacher: Elizabeth Crawford, associate professor of communication
Published November 2018
Elizabeth Crisp Crawford is an associate professor in NDSU’s Department of Communication. She provides real-world experiences that give students the opportunity to practice skills and develop portfolios to demonstrate their expertise to future employers.
What do you teach?
I primarily teach undergraduate courses in the field of advertising and strategic communication. The key courses that I teach are principles of strategic communication, creative strategies, media planning and the advertising campaign practicum.
What kinds of experiential learning opportunities do you provide for your students?
Most of the experiential learning opportunities that I provide center on developing advertising or strategic communication messages and plans.
In my principles of strategic communication course, my students typically develop a basic social media plan for a small business or organization of their choice. During my creative strategies class, students design messages to reach specific audiences with particular communication goals in mind. The media planning class centers on selecting the best media classes and vehicles to reach an audience and then determining how to gauge the effectiveness of the chosen media.
All of these skills culminate in the advertising campaign practicum that typically focuses on the National Student Advertising Competition where students integrate their strategic communication skills by conducting primary and secondary audience research, developing a comprehensive media plan and designing advertising messages to create one comprehensive national advertising campaign.
One really good example of a successful experiential learning project that my students worked on is the “Before One More” high-risk drinking prevention campaign for the President's Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs. My advertising students conducted interviews and focus groups on the topic of high-risk drinking, gathered survey data, recommended the most effective media choices and designed the logo and creative for the campaign. The “Before One More” campaign has been running on the NDSU campus since 2010. It remains one of the most recognizable communication campaigns on campus.
What is your favorite class or topic to teach?
Every year, my undergraduate students participate in the National Student Advertising Competition, which is the focus of the Advertising Campaign Practicum class. The American Advertising Federation collaborates with a national brand to create a case for students to work on during the semester.
Using the case study as a starting point, the students then create proposal for a multimillion-dollar advertising plan. They get exclusive access to media and marketing data to support their media plan, and they generate creative pieces to support a national campaign. The students then travel to pitch their campaign in front a panel of industry professionals at the district competition, which is typically held at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Last year our team won the Olson Award for “Best Community Engagement.” Through the program, NDSU advertising students have worked with national brands such as Ocean Spray, Snapple, Pizza Hut, Nissan, JCPenney and many others. The advertising students have also collaborated with a variety of clients at NDSU and in the Fargo-Moorhead community. Generally, advertising students need eight to ten portfolio pieces to be competitive in the job market. I design my courses so that my students will create several portfolio items through their advertising and strategic communication classes.
Who is a teacher who inspired you as a student and why?
I have had a number of excellent teachers during my time as a student. Although it is difficult to pick just one teacher, I would say that Mrs. Ann Gilow, my Montessori preschool and kindergarten teacher, was the most influential.
I remember Mrs. Gilow taking the time to help me understand my gifts and talents. She also helped me to understand where I struggled and needed to work hard to succeed.
Although I don’t remember all of the lessons that she taught me, I do remember that she believed in me. She helped me feel confident that I had the ability to contribute something important to society despite any obstacles that I faced. She taught me what it meant to be a valued individual and this knowledge was essential to my developing identity. I think that as teachers sometimes we focus so much on our discipline that we forget about the lessons that we teach others about what it means to be human.
How did you decide to pursue your profession?
One of the most important jobs that we have in life is to discover our strengths. I’ve always felt that my gift was creativity and that in my future I would need to find a career that would value creative thinking. When I was in high school, a group of professionals visited my class to talk about careers in advertising. I remember thinking that advertising sounded like a profession where I could use my abilities. Then, when I was in college, one of my professors encouraged me to become a professor. He thought that I had the right disposition for an academic career. I merged the two areas and became an advertising professor.
What do you like best about teaching?
I love the students and the adventure of teaching.
College students are at a very exciting point in their lives. Our students are making so many important decisions and exploring new opportunities. Working with college students can be really exciting.
One of my favorite parts of experiential learning is never teaching the same class twice. It is always a surprising and new adventure. Who will my students be? Who will the clients be? How will we solve this year’s advertising problems? The students and clients present new and interesting challenges every year. Collaborating with the students as they develop their solutions is exciting. The synergy that is generated among the students in class as they problem solve is truly special.
How would you describe your teaching style?
My job as a professor is to facilitate a student experience that will help my students find success in the career world. In my classes, I provide skills training, opportunities, guidance and industry-related information. But, in the end, it is up to the students to use their creativity and intuition to generate the best solution to the problem at hand.
Cultivating these independent problem-solving skills is key to their future success. Few employers ask candidates how they performed on quizzes and tests. However, recounting to interviewer how you and your classmates created a campaign to address a strategic communication problem creates a compelling case for a job candidate.
In every class that I teach, I provide students with the opportunity to build their job portfolio. Because I am working with my students on portfolio pieces, the assignments that they complete in my class can contribute directly to achieving career goals. Students should not just complete assignments for me to earn a grade. My students work in class to build their own futures.