Stoking the Flames

How we share our passion with the next generation of talent.

There's a famous quote that proclaims “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” The deeper meaning behind the saying is clear: One can spread their passion to others without diminishing his or her own light; in the end, spreading that flame brightens the world for everyone.


It's an adage that carries a lot of weight here at McCullough Creative, where we possess a deep passion for creativity as well as a dedication to passing that spirit along to others.


Through close involvement with local educational institutions and the American Advertising Federation™, McCullough Creative is helping develop new talent and create a pipeline that connects students to opportunities in the local advertising industry. It's a commitment that was on full display during a recent collaboration involving local students, McCullough Creative, the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, and the AAF.





Jason Schwass, McCullough's Art Director of UX Design, is an example of how we don't just believe in giving back; we live it every day.  An industry veteran with over a decade of experience in advertising, he remains committed to bettering himself on a daily basis, as well as lifting up others who are contemplating a career in the field.


Schwass has dedicated his time and talents to the American Advertising Federation of Dubuque for 10 years. During that time, he's been a contributor to the annual AA Awards as well as the organization's yearly public service projects. Today he serves as the local AAF's education director.


“I vividly remember when I was in these students’ shoes,” Schwass recalls. “Back when I was first looking for a job, I met with a creative director in St. Louis, and she was super nice and helpful, and very honest with me about everything. I was so thankful for her time and I thought, ‘If I can be that same person for somebody else, I want to do that.’”



He has followed through on that promise. In his current AAF role, he serves as the go-to-person between the professional network of advertisers in Dubuque and the local students in our district.


“You have to strike the right balance between embracing the positive things they are doing and being honest with them and sharing the ways they can improve,” Schwass explains.




Little did Schwass know that his mentorship would have pave the way for another up-and-coming professional on his way to McCullough. About seven years ago, he conducted a portfolio review for Brandon Corpstein, who was then a student at Northeast Iowa Community College.


“I remember telling our creative director, Greg Dietzenbach, ‘There is a guy who is really talented who we might want to take a close look at.’ I was a judge that year at the American Advertising Awards, and Brandon ended up winning a lot of them. I feel like my involvement, in a way, led to a hire here.”



Corpstein credits his connection with Schwass for paving the way in the early stages of his professional career.


“AAF is what exposed me to the industry and to McCullough Creative,” he says. "Without that, I don’t know where I would have ended up. At that time, I wasn’t even thinking of applying for a job, I was just so focused on school. That gave me a foot in the door at McCullough Creative and I started working here later in 2015."




In a true illustration of how one good deed begets another, Corpstein is now playing a role in mentoring the next generation of advertising professionals. Corpstein is a graphic designer for McCullough Creative and greatly contributed to a project that recently earned a Gold Addy award at the national American Advertising Awards.


He also served as a judge at this year's local American Advertising Awards and helped counsel students on how to improve their work, just like Schwass did with him years earlier.


“They get to talk about their work, and you can provide a bit of critique and feedback on what they have done,” he says. ”You can see how excited they get about it. They spend a lot of time and put a lot of hard work in and get to show it off to someone.”



And as he transitions from mentee to mentor, the significance of that role reversal is not lost on him.


"It's a great way to find some of the best talent that is coming out of college," Corpstein says. "It's good for the students and good for the industry."