For advertising students at USF, it has often been hard to find elective classes to supplement their schedule. This semester, that’s going to change.
Former USF graduate Jordan Zimmerman, the CEO of Zimmerman Partners, a Florida-based advertising agency, donated funding for a three-year pilot program that will provide advertising students with a choice of electives and real-world experience.
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is,” Zimmerman said. “Education is the future of our country. If the curriculum doesn’t evolve, we’re going to fall behind as a country. I think it will start something in the University that spreads around the country.”
Zimmerman said he wants to give back to the University by giving USF students the tools they will need in the real world and the confidence to take calculated risks.
Coby O’Brien, the advisor for the Zimmerman Advertising Program, said it will build slowly.
“Right now, ZAP will be building a 12-course curriculum within the advertising electives,” O’Brien said. “The first two courses being offered start next week: Brandtailing and Advertising Agency Operations. These first two courses are addressing advertising education to students with much more of a business perspective.”
Brandtailing, in addition to O’Brien’s regular lectures, will include weekly presentations from Zimmerman and his company’s employees.
O’Brien also said the program should be adding two electives each semester for the next few semesters.
Edward Friedlander, the current program director for the School of Mass Communications, said the $200,000 donation is just enough to start the program.
“The funding that is in place is enough to hire Mr. O’Brien for three years and teach the elective courses that are at the root of this program,” Friedlander said.
Friedlander said Zimmerman will decide whether to continue the program after its second year.In addition to helping with the program’s development, O’Brien will teach the elective courses offered this fall.
“I will be teaching the Advertising Agency Operations class,” O’Brien said. “I have a slew of guest speakers lined up to speak from top agencies in New York and around the country, as well as many wonderful experts that we have in our own backyard here in Tampa.”
Zimmerman hopes to attract new faculty members to teach courses in future years.
“People want to be in a program that’s innovative,” Zimmerman said. “We’ll not only attract better students, we’ll also attract faculty that’s the best of the best.”
While the ZAP courses filled quickly after they were opened, the program was slow in its origins.
“The initial proposal for the program was made by (Zimmerman),” Friedlander said. “After the proposal, we worked through some of the details and came up with this version. It was about two years ago and it took that long to develop.”
Zimmerman blames government bureaucracy for the stagnation of current school curriculums.
“Any time they change the curriculum, it’s more costly, and they don’t want to take the risk,” Zimmerman said. “Thirty-five years ago this curriculum was brilliant, but it hasn’t changed in 35 years.”
O’Brien is also working with the Tampa Bay Advertising Federation and Nielsen Media to provide learning opportunities to his students. He said he is currently focusing on raising more funding to continue and expand the program. To hire one additional teacher for the program, O’Brien said that he would have to raise $2.5 million.
O’Brien also wants to bring in scholars from other fields, who have media or advertising links, to provide students with a well-rounded view.
Zimmerman said he will gauge community support before he commits to funding the program at such a large level. He is currently waiting on University approval for a fundraising program.
O’Brien wants the USF community to take notice of the ZAP program and insure it will become a necessary part of the curriculum.
“I would dare to say that USF will never again see an offer this generous from as successful a person as Jordan Zimmerman,” O’Brien said. “What is USF doing to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the success of this program?”