SCOM Alumnae Teach Taylor Swift Themed Writing Course

Written by Victoria Bile

In Spring 2024, two School of Communication alumnae, Susannah Wesley-Ahlschwede and Terrie Ard, taught “Advanced Writing and Branding: Taylor’s Version,” a writing course centered around Taylor Swift’s branding and success. Wesley-Ahlschwede is the Chief Marketing Officer at Florida State University and Ard is President and Partner at Moore Agency, a PR firm headquartered in Tallahassee.

The alumnae share a combined 40 years of experience in the communication industry, which allowed them to apply their professional knowledge to the course and delve deeper into the phenomenon of Swift’s success. Ard considers teaching the course to be a tremendous career highlight due to the combination of both of her passions – her alma mater and the study of Swift’s brand.

An entire course dedicated to studying Swift’s branding is one of the first, both at Florida State and nationwide. The course curriculum customized routine writing and branding exercises to apply to real or hypothetical events surrounding Swift. Students were guided to understand Swift’s confessional songwriting style, learn crisis management by studying the rise and fall of the Reputation album and engage in five-point debates about Swift.

“One of the best parts about taking this class is [that] it feels like we are going through our own personal Eras Tour this semester,” student Matthew Boudreau said. “From Folklore, Reputation, Red, and Lover—the course curriculum explores one era at a time similar to how the Eras Tour is structured.”

The class also hosted a listening party in honor of Swift’s most recent album, The Tortured Poet’s Department. There, a committee of students applied event planning skills to coordinate a party hosted at the Alumni Center with a dessert/coffee bar, sing-alongs, a costume contest and more.

Ard stressed the importance of authenticity and storytelling to students because of its importance to academics and to one’s career. “Swift’s ability to connect with her audience through genuine storytelling resonates with consumers and fosters brand loyalty,” Ard said.

Advanced Writing and Branding: Taylor’s Version was the semester’s “Special Topics in Communication” course, indicating that it will not be on the course catalog for the next semester. However, the popularity of the course has led several students to inquire about its re-addition to the catalog in the future.