WTAMU Students Gain Experience with the Terry Fator Show

March 22, 2011

COPY BY:    Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129,

WTAMU Students Gain Experience with the Terry Fator Show

CANYON, Texas—Whether it was a bit of luck or a well-planned agenda, students at West Texas A&M University are reaping the benefits of an extraordinary hands-on experience—Vegas style.

A research and academic collaboration between Dr. Leigh Browning, associate professor of mass communication, Dr. Nick Gerlich professor of marketing, and Lori Westermann, instructor of mass communication, called BuffMinds, has created an unusual but exciting opportunity for students in WTAMU’s mass communication, marketing and business programs. The opportunity is giving students hands-on experience in a variety of projects—a pre-show video loop and market research—with Terry Fator: Ventriloquism in Concert in Las Vegas. Fator, an America’s Got Talent winner, performs with his diverse cast nightly at The Mirage in Las Vegas.

Browning, Gerlich and Westermann traveled to Las Vegas in October for a conference and while there, they videotaped interviews with various entertainment professionals to share back home in the classroom. One of those interviews has lead to an unbelievable opportunity for students at WTAMU.

"An unsolicited phone call to the Terry Fator show has grown into an integrated opportunity for student engagement," Westermann said. "They did their homework on us. They realized that we have a unique mission to educate young people, and a passion for creating opportunities that make education come to life."

And these opportunities are definitely an experience of a lifetime for three mass communication students, who are now working on a 60-minute pre-show video loop for the Terry Fator: Ventriloquism in Concert. Fator’s group recently previewed a sample of the video and was impressed with the student-produced work. The students are now putting the finishing touches on the video, and the completed project will be the video loop that all audiences watch before Fator’s performance begins each night. Students working on the project are Chris Jenkins, a senior mass communication major from Amarillo, Jessica Wyers, a senior mass communication major from Grapeland, and Jonathan O’Neill, a senior mass communication major from Lubbock.

"These students did an amazing job, and I cannot believe the creativity that they are bringing to my show," Fator said. "Over a thousand people will view their work each and every night that I perform. They are right up there with the best and have a very bright future ahead of them."

A fourth student, Piero Taliente, a senior general business major from Kingwood, is working with Gerlich on market research for the Terry Fator show. They will build survey instruments and develop methods of interacting with Las Vegas tourists about their views of the show.

"This project will allow our students to bring those stats and methods to life," Gerlich said. "This is not a hypothetical exercise. It’s the real thing with very real needs, expectations and outcomes."

Survey responses will be collected via face-to-face interviews as well as through email and Facebook invitations, smartphones and wifi devices. Collected data will then be analyzed in the classroom for a report that will detail the student’s methodologies, findings and recommendations for management.

"Our relationship with the Terry Fator organization allows us to showcase our students and our University. It’s living proof that our students can compete against anyone, anywhere," Westermann said.