Matadors in Training

It was just an idea. But it wasn’t just one person’s idea. They all saw the need for an in-house communications service. Eventually, the idea grew, and it became what is known today as Picador Creative, a communications service offered by the Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education and Communications.

What started as a large collection of emails from the surrounding Lubbock community became a program that now hires agricultural communication majors as student interns to create various communication materials for anyone with a communications need.

Picador Creative Project Manager Erica Irlbeck, Ph.D, said the agricultural communications program received numerous phone calls and emails on a weekly basis asking for students interested in designing logos, creating brochures, editing videos, and producing other communications materials.

“This kind of got us thinking,” Irlbeck said, “that we might be able to do something that would create a more formal agreement between the students and the people who ask us for things like this. It would be a good way to give students good practical experience and a good service to the community.”

Housed in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech, Picador Creative offers graphic design, web design, photography, videography, and writing services. The student-run service has completed projects in all areas since its start in 2014 when they received a USDA non-land grant college agriculture grant that allowed them to start designing.

The Design Process

Evan Johnson, student intern for Picador Creative, creating a client design in the workspace for the communication service.

Internship credit is required for all agricultural communications students before they graduate. Irlbeck said the agricultural communications faculty thought, “Why not have a service that allows students to fulfill that credit, along with gaining experience working and designing for actual clients?”

One of the current interns, Evan Johnson, a junior agricultural communications major from Floydada, Texas, said she was initially intimidated to apply for the Picador Creative internship, but decided to put in her application anyways.

“I was honored to receive the position,” Johnson said. “I was really excited to be able to hone my skills and put them into application in the real world. I’ve been able to really listen to clients and create something that they need.”

In addition to hiring student interns, Picador Creative also has a graduate assistant handles client relations and oversees the undergraduate student interns on a daily basis. The current graduate assistant is Jenna Holt-Day, a second-semester agricultural communications graduate student from Levelland, Texas.

Holt-Day said working for Picador Creative has allowed her to gain real work experience in a field she would like to be in once she graduates from Texas Tech.

“Whenever you are applying for jobs, a lot of potential employers want around two years of work experience,” Holt-Day said. “I think this assistantship can be considered real work experience with the agricultural communications degree that I have. This position puts you in a role you can take with you in your future career.”

This position puts you in a role you can take with you in your future career.
Jenna Holt-Day

Holt-Day said her primary job responsibilities are client relations. She is in charge of setting up the initial meeting once the client emails her and communicating with the client throughout the entire design process. Following the initial meeting, an intern is presented with the job description, and the design process begins. With multiple clients at once, the jobs are divided up among the three interns, allowing them to gain experience in developing materials for print and web.

Former Picador graduate assistant and Texas Tech alumna, Keely Hamman, said teamwork played a major part in getting design pieces ready for clients. Before sending the projects to the clients, the designs have been looked at multiple times by several different sets of eyes to be sure the best work is being sent.

“We were like a family that made really great communication pieces,” Hamman said. “We would always help each other out however needed.”

Building a Client Base

In the beginning, Picador Creative had only one or two clients at a time, but now the communication service often works with four to five clients at once. Past clients of Picador Creative include the National Ranching Heritage Museum, Terry County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation.

Along with working for clients in the Lubbock community, Irlbeck said the interns have been beneficial to the agricultural education and communication department as well. In the 2016 spring semester, the department launched a campaign to promote the new online master’s degree program. Picador interns were in charge of creating content and marketing materials and continue to do so now.

As a graduate assistant for Picador Creative, Jenna Holt-Day often conducts client meetings to clarify what the client is wanting.

In addition to the client base, Johnson said she is also able to apply her experience to promoting her band, the Riley Adams Duo. She said she is able to use the skills she has learned in class and enhanced through her internship to produce social media content graphics and posts to help promote her band, along with contacting other professionals to set up shows.

“I’ve had people comment to me, ‘Wow, you are the most professional musician I’ve ever had contact me,’” Johnson said, “And I’m like ‘Yeah, I learned that through agricultural communications.’”

Irlbeck said Picador Creative is positive addition to the department because it is an outreach into the community and allows students to fulfill their internship credit, grow their portfolio, and be compensated with a scholarship.

“On the student side of this project,” Irlbeck said, “their portfolios when they finish their internship with Picador Creative are pretty amazing. They’ve been able to work with an actual client that has a need, and they’re able to fulfill that need through some sort of creative service, be it graphic design, video, web design, photography, or whatever the client needs.”

From Class to Industry

Picador Creative’s graduate student and interns are able to use what they have learned in the internship and apply it to their classwork, and vice versa. Holt-Day said she is able to implement things she learns in class, allowing her to be able to see how classwork relates to a real business.

With the hands-on experience Picador Creative gives her, Jenna Holt-Day can talk about her assistantship in class discussions.

Hamman, a Jacksboro, Texas, native, said she also saw the benefits of working with Picador while taking classes for her master’s degree in agricultural communications.

“While having the assistantship of Picador Creative while in graduate school,” Hamman said, “I had the unique opportunity to have a backside view of how a communications agency worked and the ideas of that agency that were being taught in class.”

Irlbeck said one of the biggest rewards of Picador is watching the students grow in their abilities in all aspects of the communication industry.

“I’ve seen, just from watching the interns, how their quality of work grows tremendously,” Irlbeck said. “They may not have the confidence when they first come in, but within just a couple of months their design abilities, their confidence, their speed, and their creativity has grown tremendously.”

Johnson said she has definitely seen an improvement in the quality of her work and her confidence in her design abilities since her start at Picador Creative in June 2016.

“I feel a lot more comfortable and confident, especially in my professional skills,” Johnson said. “I am confident in my abilities to write a professional email, and I am confident in my design abilities. I now know I can produce what I say I can produce.”

I now know I can produce what I say I can produce. Evan Johnson