First Tombras ADPR Future Educator Fellow Learns from Tombras Agency
Kibum Youn, pictured with Justin Estrada, vice president media director at Tombras Agency
The Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations (ADPR) is committed to forming well-rounded educators, who can speak confidently to the practice and bring innovative learning opportunities to the classroom.
In the ever-evolving landscape of advertising and public relations, potential employees need to be armed with real-world knowledge of what is taking place in the industry. They are often advised to supplement their studies in the classroom with practical experience in the field.
But what about the teachers guiding those students?
That was part of the impetus for creating the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations Fellowship for Future Educators at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Making its debut this summer, the program’s purpose is to provide future college professors with the opportunity to gain insight into the workings of an advertising agency in order to enrich their teaching and inform their research.
UT has partnered with the Tombras Agency to host a College of Communication and Information doctoral candidate with a concentration in advertising for three weeks during the summer. The inaugural fellow, PhD candidate Kibum Youn, shadowed the agency’s media and social media teams, sat in on meetings, and had one-on-one conversations with staff members to learn about their roles and the projects they are working on.
Youn, 36, is from South Korea. He obtained dual bachelor’s degrees in communication and business administration at Myongji University and a master’s in communications studies at Sungkyunkwan University. He received an additional master’s in journalism and media communication (public communication and technology) from Colorado State University.
He also served two years of military service in South Korea and studied abroad in Canada. Youn came to Tennessee in 2020 and was promoted to doctoral candidacy at ADPR in the College of Communication and Information in spring 2023.
Rebekah Winkler, senior social media brand manager at the Tombras Agency, was one of Kibum hosts during the fellowship. This fellowship sees the potential for a symbiotic relationship between the academic and professional sides.
“The Tombras Fellowship is a fantastic opportunity, not only for the student’s growth and education, but for those of us in the agency as well,” Winkler said. “Being able to work alongside someone who is researching and teaching the things that we do allows all of us to learn and grow in new ways. We’re putting the theories into practice, and I hope that’s valuable to the fellows who come through the program. But it’s also incredibly valuable for us to learn from the fellow’s perspective, putting the practice into theories.”
Youn’s research is centered on reducing consumers’ negative responses to advertising in new media settings, including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and social media to cause positive behavior changes.
His experience being the inaugural PhD fellow at the Tombras Agency this summer has been enlightening and enriching.
“It’s been interesting to see nowadays how a lot of things are going more to social media advertising,” said Youn. “The blend between traditional media and new digital or AI-generated media is an interesting starting point to think about that trend.”
Justin Estrada, vice president media director at Tombras Agency, believes having Youn shadow him for two weeks gave the student, “a deeper look into working in media at an advertising agency. He was able to follow along for the development and presentation of a full-year plan and ask detailed questions along the way. I’m certain the opportunity he had to get total access to our inner workings will help him as he continues his teaching career.”
De Moya said it’s important for UT to have advertising and public relations students ready for jobs in the field once they graduate. Having professors who understand what students need to be successful and know what they will encounter on a daily basis is important.
“I don’t ever want to give the impression that we are a trade school. We are not training just for a job. We teach our students to think and teach our students to learn,” De Moya said. “They need to understand the basics and continue to learn every day because the field is always evolving.”
Every doctoral candidate who serves the fellowship will be required to give something back to the agency hosting them, whether it’s a report detailing their observations from the fellowship, or a brief presentation of their current research detailing how it might inform advertising practices.
An important goal of the program is, “for each fellow to be confident they have gained an understanding, knowledge and skills that are going to make them a more confident teacher,” De Moya said. “The students can appreciate that we are doing some of the homework ourselves and bring that knowledge back to them.”
De Moya knew Youn would be a perfect candidate as the inaugural fellow.
“He is very proactive and a go-getter,” she said. “I was very confident he would be able to make the most of the experience.”
Youn is grateful for all the opportunities he’s taken advantage of since arriving at UT.
“It’s really important to make some relationships with faculty members. Those kinds of close collaborations make me feel comfortable,” he said. “I wanted to express my deep appreciation for the immense support I have received from my advisor, Dr. Eric Haley, our director, Dr. Elizabeth Avery Foster, and Tombras professor, Dr. Maria De Moya, as well as all the professors who have been supporting me.”
“I think that my pie-in-the-sky ideal is that education is two-way. Not only is the PhD candidate learning from the practitioner, but the practitioner is learning from the academic,” said Maria De Moya, Tombras Professor at ADPR. “I think what we are more used to is having the academic observe the practitioner, but I hope this is the first step toward establishing that two-way relationship.”
De Moya expects UT and the Tombras Agency to learn from this summer’s inaugural fellowship and iron out any details for the future. She hopes it becomes a long-term partnership that benefits everyone involved.
“They are putting their trust in us and opening their doors. It’s more like being a mentor to the fellows than normal supervision,” De Moya said. “That trust is very gratifying and motivates us to make it work for both parties even more.'”
Written by Rhiannon Potkey