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Martin Hall Agency

For many advertising and public relations students, MHA is the springboard for their careers.


This is not your typical first day of class. Instead of the quiet that comes with first-day jitters, the room is buzzing. There are hugs, fist bumps and handshakes as Dr. P and Prof. B. get their “hellos” in before 2:30 p.m. rolls around. Of the 27 students in this Martin Hall Agency (MHA) course, more than half have already taken a version of it before and are now back for more.

Geah Pressgrove, associate professor and Advertising and Public Relations program chair, officially kicks things off.

“Hey y’all!”

A half-hearted response is barely heard over the chatter of students catching up after summer break.

“Let’s try this again. Hey y’all!”

Now there’s a resounding “Heyyyy!” from this unique combination of seniors enrolled in the MHA capstone and underclassmen who’ve signed up for either the advertising or the public relations tactics course — three separate courses wrapped into one meeting time with two faculty to operate one of West Virginia’s largest advertising and public relations agencies.

Students occupy nearly every seat in the Alexis and Jim Pugh Innovation Lab on the second floor of Martin Hall. There’s a 20 long table down the middle of the room and three additional pods of seating along the side. The room, like the course enrollment, is at max capacity. This popularity can be attributed to both the firsthand agency experience students get in the course and the fact that many students land internships after MHA, which often lead to full-time employment.


Chuck Borghese, the Harrison Omnicom Visiting Professor in Advertising, and Geah Pressgrove, associate professor and Advertising and Public Relations program chair, co-teach the joint Martin Hall Agency tactics and capstone course.

“Before we get started, a few of us have news to share,” Pressgrove says. “Max, I’m going to start with you.”

Senior Max Russell looks around before realizing Pressgrove is calling on him. Russell was one of just 11 students in the nation to be selected as a 2022 Stickell Honors Intern and spent his summer with Caterpillar, a Fortune 100 company, where he worked on branding with the Oil and Gas Division’s marketing team. He announces to the class that he’s been offered a full-time position with Caterpillar upon graduation in May.

Two other students make announcements of internships that segued to full-time job offers thanks, in part, to the connections of Pressgrove and co-instructor Chuck Borghese, the Harrison Omnicom Visiting Professor in Advertising. Pressgrove is a self-described “little boutique firm girl”
who worked in Columbia, South Carolina, before pursuing her doctorate and embarking on a life in higher education. Borghese began his career as a copywriter in New York City and progressed through the “biz,” landing gigs as creative director for a few large firms, including DDB and most recently, Merkley + Partners.

“I love this business,” Borghese tells the students. “I’ve been in it for 40 years. It’s work, but it’s not work. I don’t feel like I’ve worked a day in my life.”

I love this business. I’ve been in it for 40 years. It’s work, but it’s not work. I don’t feel like I’ve worked a day in my life.” CHUCK BORGHESE
Stosic was the account director for the Humans of Morgantown campaign in the spring 2022 Martin Hall Agency course.

MHA Flashbacks

Jordan Stosic (BSJ, 2022) can relate to that sentiment. He spent two semesters with MHA, first in the tactics course and then as a capstone student, working on the “Humans of

Morgantown” campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of and compassion for the local unsheltered population.

“When it comes to being fulfilled, that’s one of the things that I didn’t anticipate,” Stosic said. “I knew it would be fun and I would get to be creative, but we helped give a voice to unshel- tered persons and helped to facilitate interactions that led to compassion from the community. You do the work, and you see the results, but when I think about how it made me feel rather than just how it made me think ... that’s the powerful stuff.”

You do the work, and you see the results, but when I think about how it made me feel rather than just how it made me think … that’s the powerful stuff.” JORDAN STOSIC

J Stosic grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In high school, he was captain of the men’s volleyball team, captain of the mock trial team, vice president of the international thespian society and he trained with the city’s opera.

“I just liked doing things and staying busy. I was just so spread out that I didn’t even have time to think about college,” Stosic said. “But I picked a public relations elective in my senior year and honestly loved it. I was like ‘wow, I can use these skills and be creative in all the different areas I want to be involved in.’”

This feeling was solidified in his very first Reed College of Media course, Media 101, and he never looked back. After the unfortunate lull of a pandemic year, Stosic jumped right into extracurriculars like the Public Relations Student Society of America, the WVU chapter of the American Advertising Federation and a mentorship program where he provided peer support for underclassmen.Stosic enrolled in the MHA tactics course in the fall of his senior year where he was one of the fresh, new faces in a sea of mostly MHA veterans who were in the capstone section. On his first day of class, the students were briefed on the three project focus areas: First Amendment awareness, poverty and health disparities, and the unsheltered community. He applied for and was assigned to the “unsheltered community” project and was the account director for this team during his capstone semester in the spring.

Throughout the year, Stosic’s team interviewed several members of the unsheltered community, city officials, business owners and other Morgantown residents. They conducted research on factors that lead to homelessness and available resources. They made presentations at Morgantown City Council meetings, designed and produced a traveling exhibit and launched the Humans of Morgantown website, which features a digital exhibit of photos and stories of the unsheltered community.

“During my time as the account director, Dr. Pressgrove really pushed me,” Stosic said. “She gave me a chance to share my ideas and take on a leadership role — directing a team, communicating with clients and doing so many things I had never done before.”

Stosic’s team spent the capstone semester planning and promoting an art exhibit in conjunction with the Friendship House, a mental health drop-in center, called “Neighbors beyond Neighborhoods.” The Friendship House hosts art classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays for unsheltered persons. Stosic’s team collected this art and hosted an event open to the public at Morgantown Art Party on Walnut Street.

“We wanted to show people that housing status is not indicative of humanity,” Stosic said. “Someone can be creative, passionate and funny even if they don’t have a residence. Attendees had the opportunity to see the artworks and talk with the artists to realize that maybe their unsheltered neighbors aren’t so different from them.”

Morgantown residents and city officials attended the "Neighbors Beyond Neighbor - hoods" art exhibit, which showcased works from the local unsheltered population


“I honestly didn’t know much about the class or MHA ... I just kind of showed up without knowing what to expect. That’s when the ride started.” KAYLA STEIN

Kayla Stein’s introduction to the College of Media and MHA were quite different from Stosic’s.

Stein grew up in Rochester, New York, and applied to two schools — WVU and  Syracuse — where she explored engineering, computer science and public relations. A lover of video games, robotics and other tech, a field in engineering or computer science felt like the natural progression, but a WVU career match test revealed a different result.

“I really struggled in high school to catch up to my peers when it came to coding,” Stein said. “I figured out that I’m not so good at sitting behind a computer all day, and I like talking to people and that’s what I was good at. I learned that PR gave me the flexibility to move into whatever industry I want, like the tech or video game industry, and still be needed and relevant.”

However, Stein’s first year at WVU made her wonder if she had made the right decision — until Teaching Associate Professor Cathy Mezera’s Strategic Communications 215 course.

“Seeing kind of behind the scenes — seeing the more technical aspect of this field — really solidified that there's way more to this job than a lot of people think,” Stein said. “It's not just writing and being a nice face to look at — it’s technical in many ways, so that definitely got me invested.”

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. Stein was once again struggling to find her place and felt disconnected from her peers. Tricia Petty, then-associate dean for student and enrollment services, encouraged her to sign up for the MHA tactics course during the fall of her junior year.

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Stein recalls. “I honestly didn’t know much about the class or MHA. Tricia had just warned me that it was a more involved elective option. So, I just kind of showed up without knowing what to expect. That’s when the ride started.”

Her first MHA class meeting was particularly energetic because students were just meeting in person again after working virtually for the past year, but Stein was nervous. This was a room full of people she had never met, and she knew this class would involve group work where each member played a specific and crucial role. Not only do students apply for the account they hope to work on, but they also apply for positions, including account manager, media relations, public relations director, digital director, advertising specialist, relationship manager and other titles based on the client’s needs.

“I was just really feeling people out and trying to prove my worth,” Stein recalled. “It’s not just four people work- ing on a group project — everyone has a role and a specific specialty that they’re invested in, and you feel more dependent on the success of your teammates. It was intimidating,”

The group work ended up being both Stein’s most challenging and most rewarding experiences. Her team was tasked with facilitating a Community Action Poverty Simulation for the members of the community — Morgantown City Council members, social service providers and WVU Health Science students from various disciplines — that would shed light on the challenges and barriers often faced by marginalized populations.

Dr. P has this way of recognizing something in a student and getting it all out of them. She’ll do everything in her power to make sure you’re successful.” KAYLA STEIN

“Our group dynamic was tough,” Stein said. “We worked really well independently but struggled to stay on the same page. We were really scrambling to make sure all the pieces fell into place the day of the simulation. It was arguably one of the most stressful days of my life. But working with my team that day was kind of profound for me because everyone really stepped up. It was the biggest high — we operated as a team, we had each other’s backs, and we all really felt supported. Everyone was truly invested in the success of the project.”

Like Stosic, Stein gained much more from the project than she originally expected. In a debrief following the simulation, participants were vocal about systemic poverty and the importance of advocating for patients and confronting obstacles within their institutions if necessary. Stein’s work had paid off. Not only was the class project successful, but their efforts were creating awareness and, they hoped, change within the healthcare system. ck to the Present

Associate Professor Geah Pressgrove greets students with hugs on the first day of the fall 2022 Martin Hall Agency course.  

Stein is now among the capstone students in the packed MHA course this fall semester. After the tactics course experience, she signed up to be Pressgrove’s teaching assistant and spent the spring semester of her junior year supporting MHA projects and taking on the long, tedious task of revamping the agency website. Now she’ll be embarking on a completely new project.

After Pressgrove and Borghese introduced themselves and reviewed the syllabi for both the capstone and tactics courses on the first day of class, they dove into this semester’s projects, which will be executed in partnership with WVU Extension to elevate agritour- ism in the state. The students listen intently as current teaching assistant Maddie Wirebauch explains the three options: What is Truly Local, a campaign that defines and positions the Mountain State as authentically local; Plus One Tourism, which lever- ages highly promoted tourist events to encourage people to stay one more day; and Hard Cidery Promotion to position West Virginia for growth in the hard cider industry.

The hard cider project appeals to Stein, and her experience last year has prepped her for another semester that relies heavily on group work.

“You get a really good sense of how a real agency operates,” Stein said. “MHA challenges me in ways I don’t expect. I knew client expectations and deadlines would be hard, but understanding the dynamics of a team and how an agency operates have been crucial. I’ve softened and learned to be more empathetic toward my classmates. Looking back, I know I made mistakes, but I’m working to improve. I’m proud of myself for being self-critical in that way.”

Meanwhile, 2,500 miles away in Los Angeles, Stosic has just wrapped up a long workday where his team at OMG23 | Disney ABC Entertainment presented three multimillion-dollar campaigns for fall ABC programming in a single presentation. Stosic went from watching Shark Tank, Jimmy Kimmel and The Bachelor Franchise, to working on them.

“I have always loved entertainment,” said Stosic, who accepted this job over several other offers he had upon graduation. “I used to do theater, I trained with the opera, and I spent the summer between my junior and senior years working and living in Hollywood. That solidified it for me. I genuinely think I am where I am now because of my experience with MHA and because of Dr. P and Prof. B.”

Stosic remembers one of his first days in the MHA course, when Pressgrove and Borghese asked each student to explain their career aspirations and dream job or internship. The instructor duo placed every single student in an internship that semester.

“I just remember them saying ‘I know this for you ... let me introduce you to so-and-so ... let me send you here.’ The two of them together are just incredible,” said Stosic.

“They’re such big personalities and they’re really inviting, and they get it — this is overwhelming and stressful because it’s real stuff we’re working on,” Stein said. “You have to be on your A game. But they always have your back, even if you don’t realize it at the time. Dr. P has this way of recognizing something in a student and getting it all out of them. She’ll do everything in her power to make sure you’re successful.”

Where are they now?

  • Corbin Mills ‘22
    Digital & Social Content, NBA
  • Tara Maupai ‘22
    Account Coordinator, KWT Global
  • Tristan Haley ‘22
    Marketing Coordinator, Streamlined Media & Communications
  • Madison Kelbaugh ‘22
    Account Coordinator, Uproar PR
  • Camryn Guerin ‘22
    Recruiter, Insight Global Health
  • Lana Aboushaar ‘21
    Assistant Account Executive, Saatchi & Saatchi
  • Rob Clark ‘22
    Account Coordinator, LaunchSquad
  • Mary Madeline Gould ‘22
    Junior Copywriter, Gabe’s
  • Juliet Thomas ‘21
    Public Relations Account Coordinator, Sage Communications
  • Kenzie Dye ‘22
    Development Associate, Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences
  • Chasity Anderson ‘22
    Social Media Manager, LMC
  • Cole McClanahan ‘22
    Assistant Account Executive, Sharp Think
  • Nellea Parsons ‘22
    Junior Copywriter, Hager Sharp
  • Matt Ditchen ‘20
    Marketing Manager, Commerce Communications
  • Lily Hicks ‘20
    Marketing Manager, West Virginia Department of Commerce
  • Sevohn Hunter ‘20
    Assistant Account Executive, Leo Burnett