New Emerging Leaders Program connects advertising students with industry leaders in Chicago

Emerging Leaders

The Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising and the Hub for Brand Innovation and Advertising Technology have created a new professional workshop series for students through the Emerging Leaders Program, which aims to immerse students in the advertising industry. 

Thirty advertising students were selected for the 2022-23 academic year to gain experience in innovative areas of advertising, and network with University of Illinois alumni and industry guests in three workshops at the Illini Center in downtown Chicago. 

“These immersive events allow students in the Emerging Leaders Program to interact with and learn from industry leaders in an experiential learning format,” said Michelle Nelson, professor of advertising and acting head of the department. “These experiences will also give students a unique advantage when they enter the job market.”

The program has focused on three themes in their workshops: programmatic advertising, brand strategy, and product marketing.

Susan Muirhead, associate director of the Brand Hub, was glad to develop an opportunity for students to apply their advertising skills outside of the classroom and gain a closer look at the advertising industry. 

“I hope [students] learn about what the industry is doing so they’ll get a pulse on what’s happening and what the emerging trends are,” Muirhead said.

The sessions consist of a three-hour workshop where students work on a group project or exercise, followed by a two-hour networking event where students engage with peers and attending professionals and alumni.

Muirhead said the events have been a fun opportunity for both students and professionals to meet each other. 

“I think [the industry professionals] are really impressed with the energy, the passion, and the talent, and how bright our students are.”

In October, the first workshop on the future of advertising technology was presented by The Trade Desk, which offers an independent media-buying platform.

“I learned about measuring audiences and media planning and the digital aspect of advertisements,” said Asia Griffin, a senior in advertising. “Just being able to network and talk to people at The Trade Desk was a great experience.”

Emerging LeadersIn February, global advertising agency Leo Burnett presented on brand strategy and the students completed a Cultural Insights exercise, a tool actively used by the brand strategy team at Leo Burnett.

“I want to be more involved with Chicago-based companies,” said Joshua Watson, junior in advertising. “It’s also a good opportunity to learn more about what Leo Burnett is, what a job looks like there, and even just seeing all the people [who work] there.”

TikTok will host the last workshop in April, focusing on TikTok search engine optimization and product marketing.

Danielle Rowaiye, a junior in advertising, has enjoyed the program so far.

“I’m just excited to get to meet up with the same people again and have that same opportunity to network and to learn,” Rowaiye said. 

Students and companies interested in participating in future Emerging Leaders Program events can contact Susan Muirhead at

—Faith Lee, Communications Intern