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Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

Todd Hill, president of Tri State Ford in Maryville, and members of Knacktive's 2013 class discuss marketing ideas the student-driven agency recommended for the dealership during its final pitch.

Todd Hill, president of Tri State Ford in Maryville, and members of Knacktive's 2013 class discuss marketing ideas the student-driven agency recommended for the dealership during its final pitch. Applications for the 2015 class are being accepted now.(Photos by Darren Whitley/University Relations)

Sept. 16, 2014

Knacktive kickstarts alumni’s careers in strategic communications

By Alexandra Mortallaro, media relations assistant

Knacktive's 2011 class produced the the “Eyes Save Lives” campaign for LasikPlus Vision, and it was spun off nationally within three months.

Knacktive's 2011 class produced the the “Eyes Save Lives” campaign for LasikPlus Vision, and it was spun off nationally within three months.

For more information about Knacktive, click here, or contact one of the faculty members listed below.

Northwest Missouri State University alumni have gone on to obtain jobs at some of the region’s top advertising and marketing agencies, including Bozell in Omaha, Neb., and VML in Kansas City, Mo., in addition to other corporations across the country. For alumni like Chayse Barr, that kind of success can be attributed to Knacktive, a student-driven strategic communications agency known as “the ultimate portfolio experience.”

Barr graduated from Northwest in 2012 with a double major in interactive digital media and applied advertising and works as a project manager for Bernstein-Rein in Kansas City.

“Simply put, Knacktive gives students a hands-on, real world experience that can’t be achieved with just a textbook or lectures inside of a classroom,” Barr said. “It's about as close to working in a professional advertising agency setting as a student can get while in school, and it’s guaranteed to enhance your resume.”

Bryce Coffendaffer who was project manager for Team Confido during Knacktive 2012, had a similar experience.

“I was involved in many leadership roles at Northwest, but none of them allowed me to develop my skills or really put them to the test like Knacktive,” Coffendaffer said. “Sure, the projects I now work on are quite a bit more amplified in scope, but the underlying knowledge of how to deal with the day-to-day tasks of being a project manager were developed during Knacktive.”

Coffendaffer, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Northwest in management and information systems, works as a project manager for Velociti Inc., a technology deployment company in the Kansas City suburb of Riverside.  

“I can say with confidence that being a part of Knacktive helped me get my first job,” he said.

Returning to Northwest for a fifth year, the agency is accepting 32 students for its spring 2015 course. The open positions are project manager, public relations manager, media manager, strategic planner, art director, graphic designer, copywriter and interactive/digital manager. Four teams will be assembled with each team made up of a student in each of the eight roles.

“The great thing about Knacktive is that it gives a student the exact same opportunity we all have in the professional ad world – to work together, think creatively and deliver solutions that far exceed client’s expectations,” Barr said.

Students interested in applying for the spring 2015 course should submit a completed application form. Each application requires two references.

The application deadline is Monday, Sept. 22. A Knacktive showcase, including an in-depth explanation of the program and a question-answer session, will take place at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, in Colden Hall 3650.

Piloted at Northwest during the spring 2011 trimester, Knacktive is a selective educational experience for advanced undergraduate students that incorporates, through actual client interaction, the creative demands and intensive teamwork environment of a technology-oriented, professional marketing communications agency.

The course provides students with an invaluable opportunity, unique to other universities, to build their portfolios with real-world experience while learning to work with others in a fast-paced team setting. Students work with a professional client to create practical solutions for their marketplace challenge and earn three hours of academic credit by successfully completing the course. The course culminates with Knacktive teams giving a formal, professional pitch to the client.

While the course incorporates principles, strategies and tactics of design, marketing and public relations, it is a melting pot of majors from the departments of Communication and Mass Media; English and Modern Languages; Fine and Performing Arts; Business; and Mathematics, Computer Science and Information Systems.

Northwest senior public relations major Carlton Wilcoxson says he gained confidence through his experience in Knacktive’s 2014 class. As a result, he earned an internship at Barkley, a top-tier advertising agency in Kansas City.

“We were working with a real client so having those conversations with professionals made it easier to relate to their jobs,” Wilcoxson said. “Knacktive provides a basic sense of what it’s like to work for an agency and the pace in which a project happens.”

Rachel Sielaff, a 2014 Northwest graduate who now works as marketing coordinator for Campus Dining at Northwest, was the public relations manager for her Knacktive team. She, too, applies the information she learned during the course to succeed in her new role.

“The greatest thing that I gained from the experience, and that I’m now utilizing in my job, is learning to work and communicate effectively with people from different areas,” Sielaff said.

Like the students who have been involved in Knacktive, the faculty members are just as passionate about the program and the success it has contributed to students’ careers.

“Knacktive is a realistic, cutting-edge experience and some of the best agencies in the region come to campus to work with the students,” said Dr. Dave Shadinger, assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Mass Media. “The Knacktive client has four top flight, creative campaigns to choose from each year and every client has implemented materials from each of the student teams.”

The inaugural Knacktive class in 2011 was charged with designing a comprehensive marketing campaign for Cincinnati-based LasikPlus Vision. The client ultimately chose one team’s approach of marketing its vision correction procedure to individuals in protective services, and the “Eyes Save Lives” campaign was spun off nationally within three months. Key elements of other two teams’ proposals were implemented in campaigns targeting the college market, among others.

Knacktive’s 2012 class was tasked with rebranding Science City, a museum located inside Kansas City's Union Station, through research, promotional materials, social media, marketing plans and even smartphone applications. In spring 2013, Knacktive students helped regional auto dealership Tri State Ford remold its branding and marketing efforts by creating promotional materials, social media and marketing plans, mobile applications, website redesigns and logos. Northwest’s Horace Mann Laboratory School served as the Knacktive client in spring 2014, and students provided ideas to enhance the school’s marketing and community engagement efforts. She school has since implemented many Knacktive recommendations including a new logo and redesigned website.

Neil Robinson earned his business management and marketing degrees from Northwest in 2013 and is employed at Plattform Advertising in Lenexa, Kan. He was a member of the Knacktive teams to pitch for Tri State Ford.

“Knacktive was the icing on the cake for me on deciding my career choice,” Robinson said. “I had been interested in marketing campaigns and the industry before the program, but it wasn't until after actively participating in the Knacktive course that I knew I wanted to pursue the advertising industry for my career path.”

Robinson added, “Knacktive gave me the background knowledge of how an ad agency works. I feel like this program really did change my life because it provided the blueprint, that foot in the door, that edge for me to get where I am today at Plattform Advertising.”

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468