yFEBRUARY 20, 2009

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OSU-Tulsa Students and Professor Examine Creativity

When a new Creative Marketing course was introduced for the first time this month at Oklahoma State University, students were eager to learn what the innovative class would entail. Of course it would focus on creativity, but how does one define creativity and what does it look like?

Those were the challenges of Dr. Tracy Suter, associate professor of marketing in OSU’s Spears School of Business. Inspired by the university’s new Creativity Initiative, Suter developed an intersession course at OSU-Tulsa that challenged students to co-create, explore and interpret the creativity experience.

“The first important question I posed to the class was, ‘When was the last time you were creative?’ If the answer was ‘when we made hand-shaped turkeys or macaroni necklaces in elementary school,’ then the reason for the class became instantly clear,” Suter said.

OSU introduced the Creativity Initiative in the fall to promote and encourage creativity in all areas at the university. Thus, the TAS-sel Project was born. Suter said the name of the project is a metaphor for a graduation tassel, a symbol of accomplishment and achievement in each student’s life.

Suter did not expect the far-reaching impact of the class. The project’s official Web site, www.tas-sel.org, has recorded a staggering 87,000 hits in a few short weeks.

“The members of the class have done a phenomenal job of promoting our class, its Web site and the tournament format we used to share ideas,” Suter said. “All of the Web traffic we have received is due to their efforts.”

To begin the TAS-sel Project, Suter’s 39 students nominated selections of what they considered examples of creativity and uniqueness. The entries were placed in six categories, including logos and brand marks; product designs; advertising campaigns; distribution and pricing; Web sites; and consumer-generated content.

Students then campaigned for their selections with a six-word nomination speech. Suter said the limited speech pushed students to use careful thought and imagination to make a case for their selections.

“Since we were studying creativity in a marketing context, six-word nominations were similar in length to taglines or slogans. From that perspective, six words is more than enough to tell a terrific story,” Suter said.

Through in-class voting, the nominations were narrowed down to two finalists and the class was divided into two teams to campaign for the remaining entries.

Students were then challenged to use viral marketing methods, such as word-of-mouth and social networking, to drive people to www.tas-sel.org to vote for their team’s entry.

The Web site received 27,000 hits before online voting was officially opened Jan. 16. The site has now received 87,000 hits and Suter expects that number to increase significantly as his determined students get the word out about their project.

Online voting for the project will close on Feb. 6. Suter will announce the winner of his first annual TAS-sel College Tournament during the OSU Creativity Festival Feb. 16-17 in Stillwater. The Festival will include nationally known speakers, panel discussions, booths displaying OSU creations and innovations, and winners of the OSU Creativity Challenge.

In addition, students will also showcase videos they have produced based on their interpretation of creativity on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. in the OSU-Tulsa Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Suter said he wanted to teach the Creative Marketing course and develop the TAS-sel Project to support OSU’s goal to ignite an increased passion for creativity and innovation. He plans to teach the course again in the future.

“OSU has a strong presence in both the Stillwater and Tulsa communities and it was a combination of Stillwater- and Tulsa-based students that have led to the overwhelming response we have received thus far,” Suter said. “But determining the outcome of this contest is not limited to OSU students, we encourage anyone interested in creative ideas to vote.”