WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A new partnership between a local business and the Mass Communications department at Midwestern State University is giving students real-world experience in the field they’re studying, while at the same time, helping the store elevate its visibility and marketing.

Mass Communications students taking the department’s Advertising course this semester have teamed up with local vinyl store Warbonnet Records. The students now run an advertising campaign, making Warbonnet their first official client.

Chaz Lilly, Asst. Professor at MSU (Photo courtesy Josh Hoggard, KFDX/KJTL)

The course is taught by Chaz Lilly, Assistant Professor in the Mass Communications Department, who was at the forefront of making this partnership a reality.

“We wanted to give students an opportunity to work with real-life clients,” Lilly said. “Just like a school newspaper gives journalists an opportunity to write, we want advertising students to go out into the community and to create campaigns, to work social media.”

The story of how this partnership actually came to be is one of serendipity.

Window at Warbonnet Records (Photo courtesy Josh Hoggard, KFDX/KJTL)

Bill Lemmon, the owner of Warbonnet Records, was looking to expand his social media presence and increase his advertising capabilities. So, Lemmon asked one of his regular customers at the store if he knew of any college-aged people who might want to be an intern for him.

As it turns out, that regular customer was none other than Lilly, who was also looking for creative ways for his students to gain hands-on experience in the advertising realm.

The partnership between MSU Texas and Warbonnet Records is a fairly new one, but Lilly said he’s already been impressed with how his students have taken the project and made it their own.

“Watching the students take full autonomy of that and produce it, to arrange it,” Lilly said.

Mariana Vela, MSU Texas student (Josh Hoggard, KFDX/KJTL)

Now, instead of one intern, Lemmon has an entire army of social media-savvy students, like Mariana Vela, who is loving the experience she’s already gaining.

“We’re pretty much like an advertising firm on campus,” Vela said. “I do social media, I do TikTok and I’m starting to work on Instagram.”

Perhaps the most interesting dynamic of the partnership between MSU Texas and Warbonnet Records is how students are utilizing fairly new digital tools and social media platforms to promote a store that sells purely tangible, analog products.

However, Vela said she sees vinyl records on TikTok all the time, as have her friends and fellow students.

“They are looking to records, they are looking into vinyl and turntables,” Vela said. “It’s older stuff, but I think that’s the beauty in music.”

MSU Texas students host a booth for Warbonnet Records on MSU’s campus (Photo provided courtesy Bill Lemmon)

Vela said she’s always had a deep love for music. In fact, that’s one of the reasons she chose to major in Mass Communications. After she graduates from MSU Texas, she wants to be in the entertainment industry.

“Either working at a record label or even working with even you know, like, underground artists,” Vela said. “I’ve always loved music and how they produce it.”

Watching the early success of the partnership has Lilly excited about where the students could take the project next. The partnership may be in its infancy, but with the amount of early success they’ve seen, this may only be the beginning.

“We are launching a YouTube series called Warbonnet Sessions where we bring local artists in to play acoustic sets,” Lilly said.

Local musician plays at Warbonnet (Photo credit MSU Texas)

The new YouTube series, tentatively called “The Warbonnet Sessions”, will feature music performed by local artists, but it will also be written, filmed, edited, and assembled entirely by his advertising students.

A local businessman giving college kids the opportunity to grow their skills and gain hands-on experience, while in return watching as his store gets a boost in advertising, marketing, and hopefully, eventually, a boost in sales too.

Partnerships like the one between MSU Texas and Warbonnet Records are just another example of how much growth can take place in the communities in which we live when people take the time to invest in other people.

“This is what makes Wichita Falls unique,” Lilly said. “When we have small businesses that are investing back into the community, bringing university students in… It’s been a great experience so far.”