Student view:

Rachel Tang: Minds Wide Open

Oct. 7, 2015

Rachel Tang is a senior majoring in journalism and arts/humanities with a specialization in public relations.

As an international student from Singapore, Michigan State has given me an array of opportunities that I never could have dreamed of if I stayed home for my college education.

Last week, I had the chance to participate in the “Minds (Wide) Open: Communication Problem Solving From Two Sides of the World” advertising competition hosted by the Department of Advertising + Public Relations in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. There were eight teams in total, each consisting of two MSU students and six to seven students from China.

Honestly, as a student specializing in public relations, I didn’t think I would be good enough to participate in the competition. However, having been in this college for three full years and working in it for two, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t at least try to be a part of it. After all, I wrote the story when the group of MSU students went to China last fall and I kicked myself for not finding out about it sooner.

Henry Brimmer and studetns talking So the second I heard about professor Henry Brimmer bringing the competition here, I jumped on it and asked him how I could get involved. Still unsure of myself at this point, he said, “you may not be in advertising, but you’re still creative.”

Here I am, writing this having come in third place overall in the competition.

The brief that was given to us at the beginning of the competition was a very real problem present at MSU: “How do we get students from China and American students interacting?” It’s not a problem that I face personally, but it’s something I hear come up in conversations on a weekly basis. There are many stereotypes from both sides and it’s extremely difficult to break them.

This is when I realized this competition could really make a difference. The work we would do in a week could actually change things.

I am neither American nor from China, but I speak both English and Mandarin. I’ve also traveled to Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong, all of the places that the Chinese students came from, and that made it all the more exciting. I found myself talking about all the foods that we like and had in common and even some of the places I’ve been to and they’ve frequented back home.

One of the students in my group didn’t speak or understand English at all, but we all collectively translated back and forth. There was never any frustration with language and our campaign actually was based on his idea.

We knew that a poster campaign or an activation event would not have lasting results, so we dug deeper.

We asked ourselves, “Who can bring students from the two worlds together?” The answer? “Moms,” and we went straight to work.

Students presenting at podiumOur campaign hit really close to home for me, and also made me the “poster child” for the whole project.

Right before my freshman year started, I made a friend on Facebook through the MSU Class of 2016 Facebook page. We were both journalism majors and found each other in class once school started. These past three years, her family has become my second family; her mom has been the one I’ve turned to for advice that only an American would know, especially since my own mom is so far away.

It was interesting to see, from the perspective of a student neither from China nor from America, how collaborative our team was. Senior advertising major Amy Ruimveld said, “We’re all really different and we have our different strengths, but it was amazing to see how everything came together. We worked seamlessly together.”

I agree. Every voice was heard and incorporated.

We were very lucky to have such talented and dedicated filmmakers, designers, copywriters, creative thinkers and most importantly, storytellers. I think that's what makes our college so unique. No matter what major you are in this college, you are a storyteller.

What each of us brought to the table, we gained tenfold at the end of it.

At the start of the competition, professor Brimmer said the goal was to foster creativity by getting everyone out of his or her comfort zone. Placing students with total strangers equals creativity? He was completely, and utterly, right.