LAS advertising major earns Media Fellow Scholarship

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Many of us are captivated by the Super Bowl’s award-winning commercials, but for Kat Mogongwa, they did more than spur a belly laugh and encourage him to drink Gatorade. They inspired him to pursue a career in advertising.

“When I was young, I loved the creativity behind those commercials,” he said. “It was crazy to think that an ad for something could have such a big impact.”

Kat Mogongwa, a junior in advertising, works on an ad campaign for a client.

Mogongwa, a junior in advertising in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University, an academic unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has since come to understand why – and more importantly, how – advertisements can persuade us to support, join, and in most cases, buy a product or service. That understanding helped him become a 2013 Media Fellows Scholar for the Washington Media Scholars Foundation. The $1,000 scholarship was awarded for his essay on why he was passionate about advertising.

In just 400 words, he was able to effectively convey why he was pursuing a career in advertising – what his five-year plan was, his dream job, his favorite brands and ads that have made an impact on him, and so on. It was no easy task to wrap up his dreams and life experiences into such short prose (this story is almost 600 words long), and by doing so, he proved he could be clear and concise – exactly what advertising needs to be.

“Advertising is constantly evolving, and ads today are targeted more than ever to specific demographics,” he said. “But the fundamentals still hold true: you have to be as clear and concise as possible.”

Basically, he effectively sold his product – himself – to the scholarship committee.

He was one of just 23 chosen, beating out more than 1,000 other students in the nationwide contest – including several from Stanford, Princeton, Yale and other Ivy League schools. He’s the first student from Iowa State University to earn the scholarship.

In addition to the thrill of winning the $1,000 scholarship, the president of the Washington Media Scholars Foundation, Robin Roberts, called Mogongwa personally to congratulate him and chat with him about his career goals.

“That was a great day,” Mogongwa said.

Mogongwa is pursuing a career in media planning, which involves determining the best combination of media to achieve a client’s marketing campaign objectives.

“Media planning is all about knowing your audience,” he said. “It combines all media outlets – television, online, print, social media – and where you advertise depends on what your audience wants.”

Mogongwa learned this first-hand as an intern for the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa last summer. There, he learned how to brainstorm big ideas with his coworkers, how to market the Speedway’s events to media outlets and why the visibility of a good outdoor banner or billboard is so important.

Mostly, he learned how to be a professional.

“I really learned how to work in a professional setting,” he said. “Things such as meeting deadlines, answering emails from media people attending the events, and filling in my boss on meetings he missed were common. Those are things you don’t learn in a classroom.”

Most of the work didn’t feel like work, though. After all, he was marketing a sport that provides entertainment for millions across the nation.

“The coolest thing I learned was how NASCAR vehicles work,” he said. “The amount of engineering and technical mechanical work that goes into every aspect of those vehicles was truly unbelievable.”

And like the cars he trumpeted, his career in advertising is certainly on the fast track.


About Liberal Arts and Sciences The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment. College faculty design new materials, unravel biological structures, care for the environment, and explore social and behavioral issues. From fundamental research to technology transfer and artistic expression, the college supports people in its community and around the world.

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Contact: Jess Guess, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications, (515) 294-9906,