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Greenville Business Magazine

Denny’s & Clemson University’s Erwin Center Announce Summer Scholar Winners

For the second consecutive year, Clemson University’s Erwin Center for Brand Communications partnered with Denny’s to host the annual Summer Scholars Program, a week-long immersive brand communication academy dedicated to advancing diversity in brand communications. Students from across the Southeast, many of whom attend HBCUs such as Claflin University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina A & T University, Winston-Salem State University, and Wilberforce University spent the week learning new skills and working with marketing leaders from Denny’s, EP+Co and Fluent360 on this year’s brand challenge: create a program to establish Denny’s as an employer of choice for Gen Z.

This year, a panel of Denny’s executives selected the team Money+Co as the campaign winners. Team members included: Lawrence Cross III, Ty’Keyah Gilmore, Taylor Ross, Jayda Hill and Jonnae Keels. Each presentation was judged using a set of criteria that looked at how the students identified challenges, leveraged insights and research, and effectively addressed the project’s objective. The winning program has the potential be implemented at Denny’s and all participants in the Erwin Center Summer Scholars Program were encouraged to apply to Denny’s once they graduate.

“The Erwin Center Summer Scholars Program is a unique opportunity to work hand-in-hand with future marketing leaders and tap into their diverse backgrounds and points of view to learn more about how we can attract and retain new talent. We love getting the chance to work with these brilliant students in a dynamic real world environment where we can learn from them and they can learn from us,” said Denny’s Chief Brand Officer John Dillon. “We are truly honored to be a part of this experience and look forward to a further internal review of how we can bring some of the insights of the winning team to life at Denny’s.”

“We established the Summer Scholars program at Clemson because we are dedicated to advancing diversity in brand communications by enhancing the skills and abilities of our nation’s future brand leaders, said Joe Erwin, President of Erwin Creates and Endeavor, and co-founder of the Erwin Center. “Having brand partners like Denny’s gives these students the opportunity to provide outside of the box thinking that has the potential to be implemented in real-life scenarios.”

“I wasn’t sure what to expect coming to the Erwin Center Summer Scholars program,” said Jonnae Keels, Winston-Salem State student and Money+Co team member. “As the week progressed, I learned that there are so many layers of advertising and marketing that I had no idea about. Working with Denny’s on the brand marketing project was an exhausting but incredibly rewarding experience. I learned so much about branding and marketing all while using my creativity. My group had amazing synergy and we worked through any issues that we had. Being awarded as the winner was so humbling.”

In addition to the Erwin Center Summer Scholars Program, Denny’s funds scholarships for students across the country each year, including those attending HBCUs through its Hungry for Education Scholarship Program. To date, Denny’s has awarded 260 scholarships totaling more than $1 million in 35 states. To learn more about Denny’s scholarship opportunities, visit