A video project last spring by SUNY Oswego communication studies faculty member Michael Riecke and 2020 graduate Jack Geddes took an unexpected detour but still found the road to a national award.

"Broadcasting at SUNY Oswego: Become a part of our legacy" earned a Gold award (the highest honor) in the Educational Advertising Awards in the Digital Video Category (2 minutes or more). As good as the video is, the backstory might be even better.

“The fact that Jack and I were able to pull it off seemed somewhat miraculous,” Riecke said of the video that became a key part of last April’s Admitted Student Day for the School of Communication, Media and the Arts. When they began work, they had no idea a worldwide pandemic would force them to change course -- and, with student recruitment going virtual, the piece would be more crucial than they ever imagined.

When Julie Pretzat, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, encouraged departments to think of innovative and impactful ways to promote their programs, Riecke said he and fellow faculty member Jennifer Fogel “were brainstorming over winter break, and we agreed that it made sense for broadcasting to present using the methodology we know best -- video!”

Riecke began writing a script and storyboarding, bringing on Geddes to co-produce as an independent study. In February 2020, they put together what seemed like a solid plan -- but like so many that spring, they had to adapt -- and quickly.

“As dates in March ticked by, it became more and more obvious our production schedule was going to be interrupted,” Riecke said. This became official on Wednesday, March 11, with the governor’s announcement that all SUNY classes would go remote after that week.

Geddes said they discussed what to do, and they chose to scramble and shoot most of the video on March 13, the last day of face-to-face classes. A flurry of emails, group chats and quick scheduling ensued. Some students had already left or weren’t available, so they found others on the fly. 

Learning to adapt

Now a project manager at 325 Productions in Syracuse, Geddes said this video, as well as other lessons from his professors, confirmed the importance of planning and communicating well, but also adapting when necessary.

“With any project, you have to be on your toes and change everything if you have to,” Geddes said.

“It wasn't perfect, but we knew we had something,” Riecke said.

The duo then worked on post-production remotely, with feedback and help from Fogel as well as broadcast news veteran Jim Kearns in the college’s Office of Communications and Marketing. Oswego alumni also “were incredibly generous” in providing additional visuals, Riecke said. 

“Ultimately, we had a decent-looking 5-minute video pitch for the broadcasting program ready by Admitted Students Day,” Riecke said. “We never could have predicted how vital that video would end up being given the circumstances!”

Nor could they have predicted the national honor in the 36th Annual Educational Advertising Awards, billed as the largest, oldest and most respected educational advertising awards competition in the country. 

The overall awards drew more than 2,000 entries from more than 1,000 colleges, universities and secondary schools from all 50 states and several countries. Judges for the Educational Advertising Awards consisted of a national panel of higher education marketers, advertising creative directors, marketing and advertising professionals.

Geddes was surprised but excited about the award. “We did this in the last moment possible with people that we pulled from the classrooms and elsewhere,” he said. “Not only were we able to produce a good enough video that hopefully helped students join the program but it won an award. To do that in such a little time frame, I think, was pretty special.”

For Geddes, it also capped an Oswego experience where he produced work samples that earned him a job and found every professor willing to help him.

“If you wanted to do something a little bit different in their classes and in your projects, they would support you,” Geddes noted. “You can get so many opportunities.”