International Student selected as AAF’s Most Promising Multicultural Student

Ashley Caudill, Reporter

The American Advertising Federation selects 50 students across the country to be a part of its Most Promising Multicultural Student program every year. Kent State student Rafael Guedes Bonacin was presented with the opportunity this year to be one of the selected students.

Bonacin was born and raised in Brazil and moved to Kent to study advertising. He serves on the board of Franklin Advertising, an AAF chapter. Bonacin stays updated with AAF’s posts and he learned of the program through LinkedIn and applied.

To his shock, he was selected.

The program takes place for a full week in New York City and is fully paid for by the company for all 50 students. During the week, students attended different workshops, visited different companies like TikTok, Sony Music, Sirius XM and Pandora and visited different advertising agencies like 72andSunny and Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB).

“It was amazing to be surrounded by like-minded people that are eager to change the advertising industry and to meet people who are currently changing the advertising industry,” Bonacin said.

The AAF program started 26 years ago as a way to bring minority students to the face of big agencies to provide them with opportunities that they otherwise would not have.

“We don’t notice our privileges until we notice how they set us apart. CEOs, CMOs and CCOs as white, cis-gendered men, for me it just doesn’t strike much. We know the struggle,” Bonacin said.

While attending a workshop where the CCO of FCB was speaking, Bonacin was surprised to meet someone who is from his home country.

“When I heard him talking to a class of 50 students from all over the country and I noticed his accent that I know as a Brazilian accent, it was euphoric. He made it and I can make it too,” Bonacin said. “I knew what diversity and inclusion meant and of course, I know the importance of it, but feeling it first hand is so powerful.”

Rafael Guedes Bonacin at AAF Most Promising Multicultural Student program in New York City. (Courtesy of Rafael Guedes Bonacin)

As an international student, it can be difficult to find a place of belonging, no matter the place or situation. For Bonacin, it was still challenging to feel like he belonged even in a space that was meant for diversity and inclusion.

“If you are an immigrant or coming to the U.S. without growing up here, you are not going to have the same experience as other people. Everyone was shouting slogans that I have never heard before like ‘Taste the Rainbow’. Well, I don’t know that, we don’t have Skittles in Brazil,” Bonacin said.

One of the benefits of being from a different culture and country is that students are able to view other cultures and ideas from new perspectives, which can be very beneficial to any industry like advertising.

“Bringing in a different culture and seeing everything with fresh eyes, that is an asset,” Bonacin said.

After his success and achievements, Bonacin’s advice for other international students is to believe in yourself and your capabilities.

“Don’t put yourself in a state of minority and don’t think that you can’t. Because once you start thinking like that, you start acting like that,” Bonacin said. “You are here and you are worth it as much as anybody else.”

Marcello Fantoni, the vice president of the Office of Global Education, said that Kent State has over 1,600 international students that are from 99 different countries, with popular majors being computer science, engineering, aeronautics and fashion. Brazil is one of the top five international student populations.

“I’m grateful that it happened and I want to encourage Kent State students to do it too. Our university has very good talent from all different majors and all different colleges,” Bonacin said. “Kent State students can take the world, not just Ohio.”

Ashley Caudill is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].