Texas Tech offers scholarship, learning opportunities for ag communicators

Picador Creative is providing scholarships and hands-on experience to students while filling a much-needed role for agricultural organizations, businesses and individuals in the Lubbock and South Plains communities.

The communications service center was established by faculty in the Texas Tech University Department of Agricultural Education & Communications in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources.

Erica Irlbeck, associate professor of agricultural communications, is the faculty supervisor for Picador Creative. She hires the interns, ensures they receive their scholarships and ensures clients receive the quality products they requested in a timely manner.

Irlbeck said Picador Creative was founded after faculty began to get an increasing number of requests from the community to see if students needed projects for a class. The faculty organized a system to fulfill this need, and through a United States Department of Agriculture grant, was able to establish the communications firm.

The interns at Picador Creative design and create a multitude of materials in graphic design, online media video and photography Irlbeck said, but the most popular are videos, websites, logos and brochures. They also have created social media and campaign plans for their clients and are capable of producing almost any communications product an organization, business or individual may need.

Irlbeck commended the program for the quality experience students acquire in all aspects of the communications field, an opinion shared by many current and former employees of Picador Creative.

“The interns who work for Picador Creative get a wealth of communications experience,” Irlbeck said. “These students are doing most of the same things a professional at a communications firm would be doing.

“They’re also getting a scholarship for their work on the program, and they also are getting that first-hand experience of working with a client and understanding how that business relationship works out.”

Chamonix Mejia is the coordinator for administration for Institutional Advancement at the Texas Tech University System and a former Picador Creative intern. She said working there gave her an understanding of how to produce strong communications materials that resonate with a variety of audiences.

“Picador impacted my life because it gave me a greater understanding of the world of communications,” Mejia said. “In my day-to-day role at the Texas Tech University System, I use a lot of the skills I learned while at Picador.”

Across the board, interns from Picador Creative said one of the most valuable skills they learned was how to communicate with clients. They said learning how to understand what a client wants and how to create a product that suits their business were skills they feel carried over into any career they chose.

McKenna Johnson, a senior agricultural communications major from Floydada, Texas, has been an intern with the communications firm for more than a year.

Johnson said she has benefited most from the atmosphere of creativity and collaboration in the program. She said working with other talented designers, photographers and videographers, both interns and professionals, has really allowed her to advance her own skills and develop a high-quality and diverse portfolio.

“I think absolutely every student should apply to the Picador program,” Johnson said. “Picador has taught me to be professional. It has taught me and pushed me to be creative in ways that I didn’t even know I could be.”

Irlbeck said Picador Creative does charge clients for the products they receive, but it is not enough to make the program self-sustaining.

The donations for the scholarships for Picador Creative are what allow the program to continue its success, Irlbeck said, and gives the interns the opportunity to get this type of necessary experience.

“Those donations we receive from our stakeholders in this are very important,” Irlbeck said. “This is a very worthy cause. They’re getting hands on experience. They’re helping people in the Lubbock, Panhandle and South Plains communities, all while receiving scholarship dollars.”

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