Alumni Journeys to​ Advertising

Meet CSU alumni putting their creativity to work in advertising.

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It’s the bottle of Coca-Cola strategically placed on the table in the blockbuster film. It’s the promotional posts in your Instagram, Facebook or TikTok feed. It’s the billboard on the freeway, the commercials on television and the sponsorships of your favorite sports team.

Advertising is everywhere in our lives, and it takes brilliant minds to bring these products to the public in creative and enticing ways. As one in every 20 Americans with a college degree earned it at the CSU, a number of CSU graduates are taking their ingenuity and skills to the advertising realm. Meet a few of these​ alumni.

Chardae Jenkins

Chardae Jenkins
CSU Dominguez Hills (2013)

As the senior manager of multicultural publicity for Netflix, Chardae Jenkins leads the marketing and publicity efforts engaging Black customers​. “I'm responsible for making sure our campaigns not only speak authentically to our audience, but also celebrate the nuances, both big and small, that are a part of the Black experience,” she says.

Among the many campaigns she’s managed for films and series are “50 Shades of Grey,” “Furious 7,” “Straight Outta Compton,” “Get Out,” “Girls Trip,” “Seven Seconds,” “They Cloned Tyrone” and “Entergalactic.” Her work at Netflix earned her recognition in ESSENCE magazine as one of 124 Black Women In Hollywood To Know.

Jenkins’s path began while growing up watching BET and VH1. “Specialized programming that focused on targeting Black consumers had a great impact on my life,” she says. “Hip-hop has always been a main motivator, and watching how hip-hop transcended music and would show up in film and TV was life changing. It could be when Busta Rhymes appeared on an episode of ‘The Wayans Bros.,’ or Mary J. Blige appeared on ‘The Jamie Foxx Show.’ These moments in Black households were talkable and drove so much word of mouth in the community.”

To launch her career, Jenkins earned a degree in communications with an emphasis in advertising and public relations from CSU Dominguez Hills. While in school, she also worked for the CSUDH Multicultural Center; produced the Pan African Union’s Fashion Show; and served as an on-air radio personality for the campus radio station, the executive vice president of ASI and the vice chair of the Student Union.

Before joining Netflix in 2018, she held a number of publicity-related positions and even launched her own publicity company, Transparency Agency.

Dean Rojas

Dean Rojas
CSU San Marcos (2018)

Dean Rojas didn’t consider himself a marketing professional until his first job post-graduation as the manager of Social Media Growth Marketing at personal care brand, Dr. Squatch—though he​ “always had a passion for YouTube content creation and growing a personal brand.”

But today, Rojas is the president and co-founder of GASSED, one of the top five highest spending TikTok advertising agencies in North America.

“This is a large milestone for us as a small team under 20,” he says. “We're competing for the top spot versus companies with employee counts reaching into the thousands.”

Founded two years ago, GASSED creates and manages ads for TikTok’s advertising platform. In his role, Rojas oversees and leads a creative team of 18​ employees, brings in new business, analyzes creative analytics and trends, and experiments with new creative ads.

Rojas started this journey to founding his own company as an arts and technology major at CSU San Marcos, where he held several internships on campus, including as a videographer intern for the Office of Communications and as a design and marketing assistant for the University Student Union.

“CSUSM gave me a lot of confidence in my craft,” Rojas says. “I learned how to be a self-starter and met a lot of like-minded people, some who are now working at GASSED, as well!”

Lindsey Brackett

Lindsey Brackett
Cal State Fullerton (2021)

As a high schooler, Lindsey Brackett first recognized the “beauty of marketing” as she considered two bottles of soap and why one sold better than the other. But her interest in the psychology behind marketing and its impact on consumer behavior and purchasing decisions fully developed while studying communications at a community college—leading Brackett to apply to Cal State Fullerton to earn a degree in communications and advertising.

“It was at Cal State Fullerton where I was able to have a full grasp and understanding of what advertising entailed,” she says. “I loved learning about how different shapes and colors could evoke certain subconscious emotions, who potential buyers were and where to find them, and why different brands were so successful.”

Brackett often jokes, “I owe my entire career to Cal State Fullerton.” She specifically credits course projects that reflected industry work, the required internship, knowledgeable faculty and opportunities outside the classroom such as clubs.

After graduation, Brackett began a position at advertising agency Horizon Media working on digital advertising efforts for Corona Brand products. Now she is a media buyer for the Honda Center and Anaheim Ducks, where she manages advertising for the team for channels like television, radio and outdoor signage. Brackett also helps shows coming to the Honda Center market the event to the residents of Orange County.

“I am living out my dream of working in sports and entertainment for a professional hockey team as well as one of the most premier concert/event venues in Orange County,” she says. “It’s a great honor to come to work every day and be reminded of all the exciting projects I get to be a part of.”

Erik Uppman

Erik Uppman
CSU Monterey Bay (2001)

“Some kids dream of becoming a fireman or an airline pilot. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to work in advertising,” says Erik Uppman, vice president of marketing at Cannery Row Company. “I have memories of watching Superbowl commercials and wondering how the strategic and creative process worked to build the ad campaigns that instantly launched a brand into American pop-culture. The combination of psychology, creativity, storytelling and strategy drew me in.”

Uppman began college at CSU Monterey Bay as the internet was becoming a major media source, and he took the opportunities CSUMB offered to explore how this emerging technology could be used for marketing and advertising. A newer university at the time, CSUMB “was a perfect environment for students willing to navigate their own path and take a hands-on approach to learning the skills that would prepare us for our future careers,” he says.

After graduating with a degree in computer science, Uppman launched his career, working in several marketing roles, including in advertising efforts for major brands like Chevrolet, Ford and MINI USA. It has even included working on a few Superbowl commercials.

As Vice President of Marketing at the Cannery Row Company, his focus is ​on promoting Cannery Row as a travel destination. Located on the waterfront of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary, Cannery Row receives more than six million visitors each year as a popular California visitor attraction.

Jessie Irwin

Jessie Irwin
Fresno State (2013)

During her final project critique before graduation, the professor told Jessie Irwin and her classmates to take in the moment as it was likely the last time they would be surrounded by so many people who loved graphic design. In that moment, Irwin decided she wanted to always be surrounded by fellow creatives—and that’s what she’s done.

After earning her degree in graphic design from Fresno State, Irwin landed a creative role at an advertising services company, Jeffrey Scott Agency. There, she has since worked her way up to the position of chief creative officer and managing partner.

“My strength is creative strategy, concepting and execution,” Irwin says. “What keeps me motivated is meeting and learning about people, communities, technology and many diverse industries—from finance to pizza to travel to nonprofit. My role is the perfect balance of creativity and learning in ways I can’t even predict.”

Irwin was able to hone the skills and creativity needed for her career during her time at Fresno State through the university’s connections with working professionals, which brought real-world experience into the classroom and allowed for important networking opportunities. She now gives back to her alma mater as one of those working professionals by providing creative briefs and creative direction to current students.

Finally, she credits much of her inspiration to her twin sons. “When I imagined what it would be like to be an executive at an advertising agency, it wasn’t as a ‘single mom,’” she says. “It took some work to break out of those false boundaries and to not feel like my identity as a single mom was a deficit; and it’s still something our world needs to work on. However, now I know that being a mom has nurtured and complimented my professional identity way more than any client win, award or creative campaign.”

Learn more about the impact of the CSU’s four million-strong alumni network.