Students Work Behind the Scenes for UTEP’s Open House

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

The University of Texas at El Paso invites the UTEP community and the public to visit the campus during its Open House April 10-12. Free parking is available in the Schuster and Sun Bowl parking garages. A full schedule of events is online at

Respect deadlines. Always have a Plan B. Communication is key. Be professional while also giving a personal touch.

These are a few of the valuable real-world lessons a group of UTEP students in an advertising course learned as they dedicated a semester toward UTEP’s Centennial Celebration.

Now, as the University prepares to welcome the El Paso and regional community to campus with its upcoming Open House April 10–12, this hard-working Advanced Campaigns Class is reaping the fruits of months of creativity and dedication.

Students Jimmy Agers, Rodrigo Castañeda, Alicia Coltrane, Idali Cruz, Maria Edwards, Alejandra Espinoza, Luis Alberto Martinez, Sarahi Miranda, Celina Morales, Ana Ramirez, Jesus Reyes and Rosa Zenteno make up the class roster. Senior Lecturer Carolyn Mitchell emphasized that every single student provided a valuable a contribution to the Open House effort.

For two decades, Mitchell has shared her background as a working professional in public relations, advertising and television production to help equip her students with the know-how to launch solid careers after graduation.open_banner-2

Her expertise was put to good use when she was asked to oversee promotional efforts for the Open House. Starting last fall, Mitchell and the Open House committee developed the event schedule and arrangements for each activity, which provided her with the information on how to efficiently maximize the promotion of the event to a wide audience.

Mitchell’s senior advertising class has traditionally developed a proposal for a campaign while participating in a national advertising competition sponsored by the American Advertising Federation. The UTEP team has brought home top honors over the past several years, including first place trophies for their 2003 Toyota Matrix and 2011 JCPenney campaigns.

This time around, Mitchell pushed her students toward the more local Open House campaign, knowing it would give them the experience of actually implementing their ideas and seeing their work come to fruition.

“The beauty of this project has been just that – they have had the chance to develop their ideas to the fullest extent,” Mitchell said. “They have had to hear ‘No’ and adjust their ideas or start with something new, which is much more real-world. They have had to deal with a small budget and work evenings and weekends to pull everything together.”

The students’ key responsibilities included researching and implementing specific advertising mediums geared toward the Open House’s target audience, which includes UTEP alumni, supporters, future students and parents. Each of the more than 60 events is free for anyone and everyone who wants to visit campus and learn more about UTEP’s past, present and future.

Luis Martinez, who is studying media advertising with a minor in graphic design, held the crucial role of account executive for the campaign, overseeing each team and individual’s effort. He is certain this coursework has equipped him for career success.

“When I work at a real ad agency, I’ll know how to handle teamwork, deadlines and one-on-one interaction with every single employee,” he said.

Senior Rodrigo Castañeda was the campaign copywriter, but also contributed to the project’s public relations efforts.

“Without a doubt, it has opened my eyes to the possibilities of writing for PR and has strengthened the way I interact professionally with people working in the industry,” he said.

Students also developed television, radio and interactive portions of the campaign, along with creative elements from handbills to billboards while experiencing the less glamorous parts of a creative profession like waiting for quotes from vendors or for purchase orders to be approved.

Senior Jimmy Agers, who is majoring in media advertising, directed research and assisted with PR for the campaign.

“I hope to become an account executive for an advertising agency, so the experience of talking to people I’ve never met before will definitely help me in the future,” he said. Above all, Agers has learned the value of teamwork after watching every one of his classmates contribute to one another’s efforts.

“I don’t think this campaign would have done as well as it has if it wasn’t for all of us working together,” he said.

The Open House will provide visitors opportunities to explore the many facets of UTEP. Events include musical concerts, special tours, open studios in UTEP’s Department of Art, open labs in the College of Engineering and demonstrations in the School of Nursing’s Center for Simulation. At 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11, the Centennial Museum will show a new documentary about UTEP by Hollywood producer and UTEP distinguished alumnus Hank Cohen, who created the documentary in honor of the University’s 100th birthday.

In addition, visitors will be able to share their UTEP memories and have them become part of the University’s oral history archive at UTEP Miner Memory video booths around campus. A complete schedule of events along with information about free parking is available at

Events will be hosted by all seven of UTEP’s colleges: Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts, Science and the School of Nursing.

“It’s also a chance to reflect on and celebrate UTEP’s history – all 100 years of it – in a variety of interactive and exciting activities,” said Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and a key organizer of the Open House.

For Witherspoon, opportunities such as the Advanced Campaigns class are what UTEP and its Centennial Celebration are all about.

“After 100 years, this is UTEP – a place of great excitement, great faculty and staff, talented students and innovation,” Witherspoon said, noting that while part of the Open House spotlights the University’s history, there is a heavy focus on the future. “[UTEP] is educating the future leaders of the Paso del Norte region and of this country.”

Speaking as one of those educators of future leaders, Mitchell said, “It’s been great to watch them gain the confidence they need when they graduate and do more of this as a working professional. It’s been great to see their faces when they see their work approved by someone other than me. For me personally, this is the best part of being a teacher.”