Immersing students in real-world learning is a distinctive teaching strategy that the Erwin Center for Brand Communications hangs its hat on.

Cadency team picture

Members of Cadency, the Erwin Center’s student marketing agency.

One of the newest examples of the Erwin Center’s experiential learning was recently launched by students, for students. It’s called Cadency, an interdisciplinary student-led agency that is collaborating with various units on and off campus to hone students’ branding skills in a professional, business-like environment.

“Cadency was borne out of a Creative Inquiry in the fall of 2019 when students developed the concept of the agency,” said Katie Hildebrand, executive director of the Erwin Center for Brand Communications, which is housed in the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business. “Through work with our brand partners, students are gaining invaluable hands-on team experience that is helping them develop professionally.”

The agency’s name is tied to the students’ generational advantage and Clemson’s traditions, according to Macale Fusco, a senior who holds a graphic design position with Cadency.

“Cadency, as a whole, encompasses the new generation of brand leaders working on a cadence, from Clemson’s Cadence count, all while offering a modern twist on the iconic Clemson C to show that as Gen Z, we do ‘C’ things differently,” she said.

Comprised of students from diverse educational disciplines across campus, Cadency performs creative work for campus entities and some regional and national brands. Their work includes videos, logo creation, website design, social and digital strategies, ecommerce and overall campaign development.

Marketing major Anna Shaw is serving as the lead project manager for Cadency this year. She said the experience in working with such brands as Chick-fil-A, Sanofi, WolfPack Wine and Vapor Apparel has given her insights she wouldn’t otherwise receive in traditional classroom learning.

“In the project manager role, I learned how to lead a team of students, interact with brand partners and develop plans that result in a positive outcome for our clients,” she said. “This experience has given me confidence in assigning projects, pitching to clients and conducting reviews. Cadency has without question advanced my knowledge of branding and positioned me to be market ready at graduation.”

The agency is staffed by student interns through the University Professional Internship/Co-op (UPIC) Program. In addition to producing high-end brand content and communications materials, Cadency provides clients a unique perspective on how brands can successfully communicate with Generation Z.

“The agency benefits students but also their clients, who are eager to learn more about Gen Z and how to communicate with that important consumer group,” said Tina LeMay, Cadency’s creative mentor. “By learning foundational processes in a functioning agency atmosphere, the students are applying their learning to real-life scenarios. They prepare client pitch presentations, take and incorporate feedback, and adhere to deadlines. Students will leave Clemson having experienced situations they will face in their first jobs.”

Hildebrand said Cadency brings a unique and enthusiastic approach to serving its clients.

“One of the agency’s strengths is its interdisciplinary thinking as students from a cross-section of majors on campus are part of the Cadency team,” she said. “But they also provide fresh perspectives, insights and creative ideas from a generation many brands aren’t hearing from. These students are hungry to learn, create and deliver as they work toward building the future of brand leadership.”

Anna said she is grateful for how the Cadency experience is giving interns a jump-start on a career in branding.

“Most students don’t get this type of hands-on experience while still in college,” she said. “All of the projects we’ve worked on have been very different and our mentors have been at our side offering encouragement and great advice along the way. It’s been a great learning experience, not just in branding but in leadership. I’m truly grateful for how this real-life opportunity through the Erwin Center is preparing me for life after Clemson.”

About the Erwin Center for Brand Communications

The Erwin Center was founded in 2012 through the generosity and commitment of Clemson University graduate Joe Erwin (‘79) and his wife Gretchen. The Center’s mission is to provide students studying brand communications with hands-on experience through real brand projects. It offers classes in content and brand strategy, hosts the Clemson CMO Summit alongside Forbes and industry professionals and houses the Brand Communications minor.

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