Ingrid Otero-Smart, President/CEO at Casanova McCann, Shares a Lifetime of Knowledge with CSUF Students

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Almost five years ago, Ingrid Otero-Smart, President/CEO at Casanova McCann, and Dr. William Briggs, then dean of the College of Communications, sat down for a conversation that would pave the way for the Latino Communications Initiative (LCI) at Cal State Fullerton. 

In that meeting, they discussed the direction the college was heading in and the needs of Casanova McCann as a local employer and a local advertising agency. As a Hispanic marketing agency, Casanova McCann was eager to help ensure that the employees of the future were well-prepared for the industry.

“In the past, the Hispanic industry really started by bringing people in from outside of the country, like myself. As we continue to grow, we need to identify how to develop employees that are born in the United States but are Latino, so that they understand the language and the culture,” said Smart. “One of Dr. Briggs’ dreams was to have an area of the college of communications more focused on Latino students. That’s where the idea for the Latino Communications Initiative was born,” she said.

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Casanova McCann was the first financial supporter of the initiative and is currently a sponsor. As a partner to Cal State Fullerton, the agency has also offered mentorship support to PRactical ADvantage Communications, the student-run advertising and public relations agency. Five years later, they’ve had close to 20 students from Cal State Fullerton intern with the company. Currently, the agency has a total of seven interns, five of whom are from CSUF. 

“The number one quality consistent among CSUF students is work ethic. We get students that are committed to working, they’re not here just to pass the time. They’re here to learn, and it’s obvious they have a passion and desire to be here,” said Smart. “To me, that’s the number one quality. We can teach them what they don’t know about advertising, nothing replaces hard work,” she continued.

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Every semester, Smart takes the time to sit down for a lunch with interns to exchange ideas, feedback, and to offer them key pieces of advice she wishes someone would have told her when she started in the business.

“One of the amazing things about this industry is that people love what they do and they’re generous with what they know; they will share all of their knowledge, but you have to be passionate about it. So, work hard, show your passion, ask questions, and always be willing to do more. The rest will come with that,” she said.