Center for Advancing Teaching Excellence: Graduate Student Spotlight | Pratik Shah

Moody Graduate Student Spotlight: Pratik Shah

Pratik Shah is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations. He has been a teaching assistant in assistant professor of practice Octavio Kano-Galvan’s International Advertising course since 2019, in addition to teaching in courses such as Integrated Communication Management and Pop Star Activism.

This interview has been condensed and edited for the newsletter.

Pratik Shah

Pratik Shah, graduate spotlight at CATE in Spring 2022

How do you translate your professional industry experiences for students who are just beginning to study advertising? 

I finished my Masters in 2007, and I was working for various integrated marketing communication agencies until 2017. And I used to feel that, even after learning about various fields of mass communication, working in the field is altogether a different experience. This gap basically helped me come up with this idea of utilizing this class in such a way that they actually get as close to the real-life experience as possible. So when students come for this class, I start by telling them ‘This is an amazing class. You’re going to have a lot of fun. There’s going to be a lot of role-playing involved, and you’ll get an opportunity to come up with your own agency.’ 

And you get an opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds: International Advertising is not just for people in Moody College. Last semester we had people from Engineering, we had people from Fashion and Textile, and we had some people from the business school. Everyone came in with different potential, different backgrounds. When they were put together in a group, that’s exactly what we want, because in an advertising agency or marketing communication agency, you will probably have someone who’s had a literature background or several from finance or fashion. 

It’s a very project-heavy class. The entire class is divided into various groups where they role play an agency and the client. We want to give them the experience of working on both sides. They have to come up with everything from the logo to the slide designs to the kind of client you want to go and pitch. 

How has your own teaching changed since you started your program? 

I had several ideas about what we could do in class because I worked for ten years before starting my PhD. However, they weren’t all that structured until a wonderful human named Kathleen McElroy came into my life. I took her supervised teaching class [J398T) in fall of 2020, and I actually restructured the International Advertising class then. The International Advertising professor, Octavio, has been very supportive of that; we were both from the industry and both had so many ideas, but they needed to be structured in a systematic way. 

Before Kathleen’s class, we just had students work on one project the entire semester. I divided the project into steps, and we now have everyone present each week for each of the five steps. At least one of the group members has to meet with me every week to discuss what progress has been made, and we discuss what they can do to make the project better and match the expected level. We’ll randomly pick the teams who present each week, so no one knows who will be chosen. And then everyone has the same submission date for the final project. 

How do you help students feel comfortable in a large class? 

There are about 65 people in International Advertising; they’re juniors and seniors. I think it’s extremely important for a TA or an AI to make sure the students perceive them as a strong bridge to the professor. My way to do that is to be as informal as possible when required, but at the same time you communicate to the students that there are certain expectations and a certain discipline needed to succeed. In emails and announcements I’d write ‘Hey superheroes!’ or ‘Hey Ad Gurus!’ I want them to see me as a professional, but also someone that they can reach out to me with whatever doubts and difficulties that they have. You want to be able to communicate to the professor what issues people are having. 

I think it’s extremely important to intrinsically motivate students. They come to the class largely with some kind of extrinsic motivation—the most basic reason why students want to attend a class like this is because they have a cultural flag. Or they want to be able to go out for a foreign exchange program. But you want everyone to be actively involved in learning and engaged in the class. So I will tell them, this is an opportunity to experiment with your ideas and do projects that you really want to work on, because you may or may not get an opportunity like this when you get out there [in a job].