When senior Nico Aramboles talks about why she aspires to be an art director, the advertising student begins with the sense of empowerment she discovered in a public advocacy course in her original major at Syracuse University. The assignment was to develop and pitch an idea for an ad campaign promoting awareness and education on a topic of her choice. She proposed a commercial about skin bleaching and the way it’s marketed to women of color. It was a project that stuck with her.
Aramboles had come to Syracuse ready to capitalize on new opportunities. “I had never visited campus and I was in awe of everything I saw and did,” she says. “I was really ready for a fresh start.” To make the most of her college experience, Aramboles was determined to take everything in (“be a sponge,” as she puts it), and to constantly consider and reconsider her direction and plans. “As I reflected on what I was learning, I realized how the course in public advocacy had influenced me,” she says. Aramboles recalled a period of her life when she didn’t like her skin color and wished she could change it. “I started thinking about how, through advertising, I could use what I learn in college to fight for causes that I care about.”
Originally enrolled in the College of Visual and Performing Arts as a major in communications and rhetorical studies, Aramboles soon discovered a perfect fit with the undergraduate advertising program at Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She switched from her previous course of study during sophomore year, and she felt prepared for the leap. “Everything I learned in communication and rhetorical studies helped me so much, as a student and as a communicator,” she says. “I think it goes to show that when we are on the right path, everything really is connected.”
A New Take
For Aramboles, who was born and spent the first several years of her childhood in the Dominican Republic, a good education has always been synonymous with financial stability and a successful career. “Ever since I was a very young, school has always been my thing,” she says. After her family emigrated to the U.S., she continued to enjoy learning and performed well, showing promise to be the first in her family to attend college. Her initial plan was to be a lawyer.
But she hit the ground running as an advertising student at Syracuse University—studying copywriting, graphic design, photography and strategy and seeing how they work together in exciting and influential projects and career fields. The experience had its challenges, and one of the first was Portfolio I. In this required course, students learn all the major components of creating ad campaigns, including conceptual thinking, art direction and copywriting. “This course was much different than any I had taken before,” she recalls. “At times, I questioned my decision to change majors.” But with the support and mentorship of her professor and advisor, Mel White, she maintained her determination. “Professor White is so inspiring, and she really pushes us,” Aramboles says. “She truly values our work and helps make sure we are producing the very best work we can.” White says Aramboles’ talent shone from the start. “Even in her first creative advertising course, Nico showed strong conceptual skills,” White says. “She uses feedback to push her ideas to interesting places and has an eye for typography, design and photography.”
By the third year of the program, advertising students choose a track based on their career goals: creative or insights and strategy. When the time came for Aramboles to select a track, she had gained a firsthand perspective that helped guide her decision. “One of the great things about the program is that it gets very specific, and we can choose what we want to do—rather than figuring it out later in our jobs,” she notes. Various creative assignments provide diverse relevant experience. For example, after a copywriting assignment to write 40 headlines, Aramboles decided to lean more into the art direction, management and “big picture” aspects of the creative track. “Headline writing was not my favorite assignment, but it was a decisive one for me!” she laughs.
Last summer, Aramboles had the chance to work in the role of art director with a real client during an intensive fellowship that resulted from an internship with the Advertising Club of New York. Through an initiative called Giving Real Opportunity With Talent and Heart, a virtual agency for diverse students, she collaborated online with a team of students at colleges all over the country to develop and execute an ad campaign, working on everything from strategy to deliverables. Organized like an agency team, the students worked with a community organization in the Bronx to promote their efforts to establish a land trust that would protect their homes and property from the effects of gentrification and overdevelopment. The group produced a 30-second TV commercial and digital billboards that were featured during the campaign.
This wasn’t Aramboles’ first experience with a grassroots agency or helping organizations promote causes that they—and she—feel passionate about. In her first two years at Syracuse University, she had an internship with an immigration law firm, and also volunteered as a graphic designer for Students for Farm Workers, which raises awareness of systemic inequities and economic disparity among farm workers and their families. Aramboles also has been involved with the University’s LGBTQ resource center and the Students Advocating for Sexual Safety and Empowerment organization. “I joined these groups right away at Syracuse because they deal with topics that I care about a lot—race, gender equality, empowerment—and this was a safe space to explore them,” she says.
The Big Idea
As an art director, Aramboles says she has learned the importance of research and “finding out everything there is to know about the client’s challenges and goals.” And she’s had the opportunity to fully appreciate the “big idea” of a creative project. Before a creative team gets started generating a project for a client, they should be completely aligned on the foundation of their campaign with a clear, overarching goal and message.
For Aramboles, personally, the big idea remains paramount, too. “Syracuse has given me the opportunity to be all of me,” she says. “Being a woman, being an immigrant, being Black—all of these are incredibly important for me to take into the advertising industry,” she says.
White says diversity in messaging and representation will be welcomed in the ad industry. “Ad agency creative departments are lacking in Black female voices and perspectives,” she notes. “I see Nico being part of positive and inclusive changes in the future.”
Aramboles says it’s a challenge she looks forward to. “Knowing how much influence advertising has in this world, I really can’t wait to start my career.”
The Newhouse School is the right place for Nico. Learn more about why it’s the right place for you, too.