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The small car that is driving a dream.

Joquita Burka | Office of Creative Services

Jessica Byrd, right, and the winning Chevy Sonic Marketing Challenge team.When Clemson marketing professor James Gaubert asked Jessica Byrd to be a part of his Creative Inquiry class in the fall, she had no idea it would lead to Detroit and, even more importantly, her discovery of what she hopes to do for the rest of her life.

As the Creative Inquiry project, Gaubert chose the Chevrolet Sonic Marketing Project through EdVenture, a marketing education consultancy that brings together educators, students and clients in real-world situations and challenges. The challenge this time was marketing a new subcompact car with a starting price under $15,000 to the “millennials” — young people like themselves.

Of the six teams working on the competition in the Creative Inquiry class, two proposals were submitted to EdVenture. Jessica and her team of marketing, management and graphic communication majors received word that they had been selected out of 52 schools to compete in the final three against the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas at Arlington. Hours and hours of preparation later, the team boarded the flight to Detroit and their presentation before a panel of judges that included both the vice president and advertising director for Chevrolet.

“We were third to present, but we didn’t get to watch the other presenters,” said Jessica. “We had 20 minutes to make our whole presentation, so we were really conscious of the time. We practiced and practiced. Every time in practice one of us would mess up. But when we presented, everyone was on-point.”

Indeed, they must have been.

First, judges called the third place. Only when the University of Pennsylvania took second place did it dawn on Jessica and her teammates that they had won the competition. “The advertising director told us, ‘I kept waiting for your presentation to fall apart, but it never did,’” said Jessica.

Just a few hours later, the team was on a plane back to Clemson and their final exams.

While she had never really known anything about the fields of advertising and marketing, this Creative Inquiry changed all that. “It was,” as Jessica said, “a great experience. I found what I want to do for the rest of my life. I met top industry people. I learned about working together in a team. Basically, I discovered my career.”

Teamwork. Rising to a challenge. Creative solutions. Critical thinking. A career choice.

That’s quite a list of accomplishments from one Creative Inquiry.

Creative Inquiry is Clemson’s unique undergraduate research program that combines engaged learning and undergraduate research. Students take on problems that spring from their own curiosity, from a professor’s challenge or from the pressing needs of the world around them.

To support Creative Inquiry and engaged students like Jessica, go to or call 864-656-2121.

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