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SDSU senior named one of AAF’s most promising multicultural students

Lesly Abarca-Valladares MPMS award

Lesly Abarca-Valladares, a senior advertising major in the School of Communication and Journalism at South Dakota State University, has been named one of the nation’s most promising multicultural students for 2023 by the American Advertising Federation.

Industry leaders have selected 50 of the highest-achieving diverse seniors in the U.S. to participate this spring in AAF’s premier industry immersion program in New York City promoting diversity, equality and inclusion.

Abarca-Valladares has been mentored by SDSU advertising faculty Roxanne Lucchesi and Heather Solberg.

The Most Promising Multicultural Students program started in the 1990s when industry leaders in the American Advertising Federation recognized the lack of diversity within advertising. The program has evolved into a premier event that connects the nation’s top advertising students with industry leaders and an immersion opportunity that gives them an unparalleled way to transition from student to professional, the advisers explained.

"We are proud of Lesly for being selected to participate in this program. It’s a testament to her ;exceptional leadership skills, passion for diversity and inclusivity, and commitment to making a positive impact in her community. Lesly is a great example of the kind of students we strive to cultivate in the School of Communication and Journalism at South Dakota State University, and we are honored to have Lesly represent us on this prestigious platform," said Solberg, an advertising instructor in the school.

“Lesly demonstrated outstanding leadership as advertising manager of The Collegian and as a member of the student media transition task force. It’s rewarding to see her talents recognized by the American Advertising Federation,” added Lucchesi, an advertising professor in the school. “Networking and mentorship are cornerstones that professional opportunity builds upon, so we are excited about Lesly’s participation.”

The selected students’ four-day industry immersion program in New York will include professional development and personal branding workshops, the Building Bridges for Our Future Awards Ceremony and Luncheon, and Recruiter’s Expo. The Most Promising program gives advertising, media, communications and tech companies the opportunity to tap into high-achieving talent of 50 diverse college students from across the country.

“What I like most about the MPMS program is that it not only recognizes top students like Lesly across the country, but it provides an opportunity for them to network with each other and be mentored by leading industry professionals,” Lucchesi said.

Each year, students of racial or ethnic diversity from the AAF’s 140-plus college chapters apply to the program. This year’s judging panel included representatives from Ally Financial, Nissan Motor Corporation, Captura Group, Cummings Creative Group, Hearts & Science, Lake-Sumter State College, ProMedica, Publicis Health, RPA and The Trade Desk.

Leading agencies and companies have been longstanding Most Promising supporters and consider the program a valuable resource in recruiting diverse, entry-level talent.

“The AAF is very proud to introduce our Most Promising Multicultural Students Class of 2023. This amazing group of students have met all criteria and vetting processes by an outstanding experienced and respected Council of Judges,” said Steve Pacheco, CEO of the AAF. “Now, more than ever, the need to connect young talent to the advertising industry is a top priority for everyone. The fact that the AAF can develop such a diverse group representing the best from across North America is consistent with our mission to develop the Next Generation of Advertising leaders.”

This year’s class has an average GPA of 3.7 and represents 28 schools and 18 states across the country, including California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, New York, Texas and South Dakota.