Media Arts and Design

New student-run agency replaces Ad Club


By Charlotte Matherly, staff writer

JMU Ad Club is no more.

Seeking more professional opportunities, seven Dukes — including five SMAD students — rebranded JMU’s chapter of the American Advertising Federation into an agency aimed at helping area businesses.

The new student-run firm, which launched March 1 and will still operate with a faculty adviser, is called scratch pad.  — and uses lower case letters and a period at the end as part of its brand.

“We were just trying to look for some sort of way to engage more students and more faculty across campus,” said Connor DeJarnette, a junior marketing major and co-founder of scratch pad. “We felt that Ad Club was not as well known as it should’ve been, especially for the work that we create.”

Sierra Bass, a senior SMAD major with a concentration in Creative Advertising, said the club began working last year with businesses owned by people of color in the Shenandoah Valley. Now, after five months of planning and restructuring the club, they’re building scratch pad.’s clientele around those small businesses.

“Our idea behind the community focus has three tiers … the students, the campus as a whole and then the Harrisonburg community,” Bass said.

Other SMAD students who helped found the new firm include: Madison Fletcher, who is serving as president; Emily Robertson, the agency’s art director; Cayla Davis, the creative strategy director; and Carli Aldape, the art director. The seventh student who helped found it is Allie Garrison, a marketing major in the College of Business.

scratch pad. will accept members each semester, and students can apply through scratch pad.’s website. The agency is open to Dukes with strategic and creative skills and a passion for marketing, DeJarnette said.

Student-held positions include copywriters, researchers, graphic designers, web designers and other content creators. With each new semester, students can re-apply and move up the ladder to executive positions.

The student founders are building scratch pad. on four key values: accountability, determination, diversity and passion. DeJarnette said he believes keeping those objectives in mind will set their agency apart from the rest.

“I think those goals are really, really, important to who we are, not just as scratch pad., but as JMU entirely,” DeJarnette said. “We’re all so welcoming, all so kind, and that’s one thing that we felt scratch pad. was as well.”

The agency will work with companies for free, and Bass said she hopes to develop a mutually beneficial atmosphere for both Dukes and local businesses.

Catherine Hessick, a lecturer in JMU’s marketing department and scratch pad.’s faculty adviser, said she has had a hands-off role in the formation of the new agency. She said although she’s provided guidance when asked and reminded the students to keep the agency affiliated with JMU, she had no influence over scratch pad.

“What the club has done has really shown the capacity and the potential of our students in real-world jobs, because this is not an easy process,” Hessick said. “Restructuring is never simple, and so, the students put in a tremendous amount of work, and they really thought about all the details … even down to the name ‘scratch pad.’”

scratch pad.’s name also holds a historical connection to JMU.

Bass said naming the agency was one of the most challenging aspects of rebranding. At one point, she said, they’d thrown out hundreds of name suggestions, trying to get the right fit. The founders, looking in special collections at the JMU libraries one day, stumbled upon a student publication from the 1930s when JMU wasn’t even JMU yet. At that time, it was called State Teachers College at Harrisonburg.

The literary arts publication was published  by a group of students calling themselves “the Scribblers.” Those “Scribblers” inspired the agency name “scratch pad.”

In addition, scratch pad. strives to promote diversity and inclusivity within the agency.

Bass, DeJarnette and Hessick each said scratch pad., welcomes students of all talents, skill types and majors.

“I encourage students to understand what we do and to check this out and know that there is a spot for them in scratch pad.,” Hessick said. “They don’t have to be the most creative. We’re always looking for students who are really good at organizing, or good at strategy … That’s what makes our organization so awesome, is that there is a place for everybody.”

Back to Top

Published: Monday, March 1, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Related Articles