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Hacking away at hatred and bias

Villanova students create pitches for national campaign at 24-hour Y&R and Ad Council hackathon

A social media campaign that transforms random acts of kindness into consistent acts of love may seem like a simple concept, but it has potential for dynamic impact—industry experts think so too. Team Revolution, comprised of five Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences students and two Villanova School of Business students, won first place in Villanova University’s first Idea Hack for their campaign, “Connect the Dots,” earning each of them a guaranteed interview with the global ad agency Y&R for a paid fellowship.

The "!dea Hack," or hackathon, is a 24-hour case competition where student teams are tasked with creating a fully-formed digital, social media or live activation pitch to support the featured client’s campaign. Villanova partnered with Y&R and the nonprofit public service advertising organization, Ad Council, to bring this event to campus. This University-wide initiative was a collaborative effort by CLAS’s Office of Undergraduate Students, the University Career Center and the Business School’s O’Donnell Center for Professional Development and Center for Marketing & Consumer Insights to provide a truly rewarding, interdisciplinary experience for the students.

Olufemi Olaifa
“I came into this event expecting that one student might lead our project idea, but I was so impressed by the variety of pitches and the leadership skills each student portrayed,” said Olufemi Olaifa ’18 CLAS, a Psychology major and member of the winning team.

The event kicked off on Feb. 2 with 36 students from across the University’s colleges in the Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship Institute’s Idea Accelerator. The Y&R team introduced the event, and Julia Blumenstyk, director of Strategy and Evaluation at Ad Council, explained the challenge.

“The Ad Council’s mission is to create social change by leveraging the power of communications industry. We work with awesome agencies such as Y&R and bring leading nonprofits and government agencies to the table in order to address some of the most pressing social issues in our country,” she said.

In a national effort to eliminate bias and hatred, the Ad Council launched the Love Has No Labels platform in 2015. This award-winning campaign promotes diversity and inclusion in the workplace, schools and communities by flooding culture with diverse images and acts of love to inspire togetherness. Villanova students had to create and pitch a new idea for the campaign.

Each team of students worked through the night, perfecting their pitch presentations. By the late afternoon on Saturday, Feb. 3, students presented their ideas to Blumenstyk, and the two other judges Olivia Collins, chief of staff at Y&R Global; and Julie Pirsch, PhD, assistant professor and associate dean of teaching and learning at Villanova School of Business.

Students used mock images, videos, hashtags and toolkit materials to articulate their campaign vision. It was an exercise in critical thinking, creativity and passion that Dana Hausman ’19 CLAS found directly applicable to her career goals. 

Dana Hausman
“I think creative collaboration is what I strive towards, and when I saw the opportunity I knew I wanted to be a part of the event,” said the Communication major. “I think the challenge of meeting a deadline while maintaining attention to creativity will be a part of my everyday routine in the Communications field.”

The opportunity to gain real-world experience was not only beneficial for students professionally, but also personally. Hayden Sernyak ’20 CLAS, a Political Science major, found value in working with her peers throughout the Idea Hack.

Hayden Sernyak
“At Villanova, we’re challenged on a daily basis with diversity of thought and people. This event really echoes Villanova’s goal of Unitas, she says. “In class, whether it is in Political Science, Communication or Computer Science, we study diversity and how it affects the way we learn. This event allows for students of all majors to come together and learn as one.”
First place team
Team Revolution earned first place with their project, "Connect the Dots."