HOMETOWN PROMOTION: Jennifer LeMasters, a student in OSU-Okmulgee’s Visual Communications program, with the billboard she designed promoting Checotah and its now famous native, Carrie Underwood, the winner on television’s “American Idol??? program. The billboard is located at the intersection of Interstate 40 and Highway 69 near Checotah. LeMasters is also from Checotah.
An OSU-Okmulgee graphic design student is helping her hometown call attention to its most well-known native, Fox TV show “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood. Town Mayor Jay Hayes told visual communications student Jennifer LeMasters – also a Checotah native—he wanted travelers on the two major highways near Checotah to know exactly where Underwood’s hometown was. His idea was to put Underwood’s picture on a billboard at the edge of town.
Now anyone driving near the intersection of Interstate 40 and Highway 69, near Checotah, can see Carrie’s picture and the words: “Checotah says Reach for the Stars, like our own Carrie Underwood.” Underwood was named the winner of the competition, which was views by millions of people in May.
The billboard picturing the singer is a message of encouragement from the small town of nearly 4,000 people. It was created by LeMasters, a fifth-semester graphic design student in the Visual Communications program. Mayor Hayes was looking for an artist to create a billboard and poster to show the town’s support for Underwood. LeMasters showed him her portfolio of artwork, was hired for the job and started working to design the billboard and poster – knowing she had only a week to accomplish everything.
“I knew I could get a picture of Carrie to put on the billboard, because my husband went to school with her brother-in-law. Then, I talked with Mayor Hayes about the wording we could use on it. I thought about when Carrie would sing in her sister’s classes and sign autographs for the students, one of whom was my younger sister. Carrie would always add a special note that said ‘follow your dreams.’ Mayor Hayes wanted to make Checotah’s billboard ‘our own’ and not like the billboards in Tulsa, so I changed the phrase to ‘reach for the stars.’”
After designing the billboard artwork, LeMasters contacted Lamar Outdoor Advertising company in Oklahoma City to print the artwork for the billboard. She also contacted Rick Garner—a graduate of OSU-Okmulgee’s Visual Communications program—at Hoffman Printing Company in Muskogee to print the posters.
LeMasters will add the billboard and poster designs on her resume, which she will use when looking for an internship this fall and for a job after graduation in April 2006. “OSU-Okmulgee’s Visual Communications teachers really push us to make our work better,” says LeMasters. “With the teachers’ guidance, and by having the same drive that Carrie has had to stay focused and work hard, I’ll become the best graphic designer I can be.”
LeMasters says OSU-Okmulgee graphic design instructor James McCullough has found many “live jobs” for her and other students to produce as part of their learning process. She has worked on designing advertising materials for the cities of Henryetta, Muskogee and Eufaula to promote tourism and other city projects.
LeMasters has known Underwood since they were children and remembers Carrie singing at church as a young girl. “Carrie knew she wanted to be a singer when she was very young, and she remained focused on her dream. She always took every opportunity to sing at events, at church and school. When Carrie was in high school, my sister taught her in cheerleading camp, but Carrie decided not to pursue cheerleading so she could focus on her singing. Now she’s achieving her dream.”
LeMasters hopes to work for a graphic design company after she graduates. In fact, Lamar Outdoor Advertising wanted to see more of her work after the company representative saw her billboard design.
Oklahoma State University – Okmulgee is known for its hands-on technical education, world-class equipment and active partnerships with industry. Degree programs are developed according to emerging educational and labor market needs. Seventeen programs of study lead to Associate in Applied Science degrees, three programs of study lead to Associate in Science transfer degrees, and three programs lead to Bachelor of Technology degrees – Information Assurance and Forensics, Instrumentation Engineering Technology and Civil Engineering Technology.
OSU-Okmulgee was the first college in Oklahoma to offer a Graduate Performance Guarantee to employers. Through frequent advisory board meetings, corporate partners make significant contributions to curriculum, faculty improvement, equipment acquisition, internship experiences for students and employment opportunities for graduates. OSU-Okmulgee also promotes economic development among small Oklahoma firms by providing training and assistance with technology deployment, financing, bidding and purchasing procedures.