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U of M seniors work to diversify advertising industry, earn national distinction

The American Advertising Federation named 50 students from across the U.S. to its 2023 class of "Most Promising Multicultural Students," including six from the U.

MINNEAPOLIS — In 1997, the American Advertising Federation (AAF) started the Most Promising Multicultural Student program to connect the advertising industry with the nation’s top multicultural college students. 

This year, it named six students from the University of Minnesota to its class of 2023. The U of M says its participants set a record this year. 

Fifty students in all were chosen from 28 different schools in 18 states. 

The group went to New York last week to meet with professionals from top advertisers, media companies and advertising agencies. While it helps prepare the young prospects, it also helps diversify an industry that has long been white- and male-dominated. 

"I think advertising is really on the precipice of really shifting what's behind the curtain," said Luckett Vanguard, one of the U of M seniors who was chosen. 

Vanguard is a strategic communications major who says investing in diversity helps agencies extend their reach. And in the past, the agency has pledged to increase Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) resources.

"A lot of people who have created the advertisements have been predominately white so, I think within the ad industry now, is a push for multi-cultural talent," said Vanguard.

"I really see a lot of agencies and organizations working towards making authentic change in that area," said Elizabeth Gordon, who was also selected as one of the Most Promising students.

A recent ZoomInfo study found that DEI roles increased 113% from 2015 to 2020. Gordon is pushing for more Black creators, especially in leadership roles whose authentic messages can really resonate with audiences. 

"I want to influence culture and play a role in increasing representation for communities like mine and showing people who have similar identities to me that they belong in these communities and they can be in these positions and they can be a trailblazer just like you," said Gordon. 

Beamlak Lulseged was also a U of M student who was chosen and credits the school for her success. 

"My life changed because of it," said Lulseged, whose family immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia. She said her father, especially, pushed her to get a good education. 

"It’s a value that’s unshakeable in my system as a person," said Lulseged. "I will never ever take it for granted."

Lulseged doesn't know what she's going to do when she graduates, but she's confident she'll find her way. The AAF says that students attribute the success in obtaining a job after graduation to the distinction that comes from participating in the Most Promising program.

"I want to improve tomorrow so that some kid doesn't have to feel as if they're not good enough for the world," said Lulseged.

Since the program's inception, 1,000 students from across the country have participated in the premier event. 

All of them have to fill out an application and go through an interview process to be selected.

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