ACUI Invites You to Steal These Award-Winning Ideas — Yes, Really! 2023 Contest Winners Offered a Breadth of Theft-Worthy Creativity

Inspiration can come from anywhere —personal experiences, your favorite song lyrics, and observations of your surroundings. Or, as is the case with The Bulletin’s annual Steal this Idea issue, inspiration can come directly from fellow student union marketers who welcome you to snatch up their winning ideas at no cost.

This year’s ACUI Steal this Idea contest, open to any professional or student working within college unions and student activities at an ACUI member institution, once again showed off the best of the best in marketing and promotional designs to the benefit of Bulletin readers. Members submitted 322 entries, the most ever in the contest’s history, with 65 more than last year. Those entries covered 16 categories, including brochures, digital campaigns, T-shirts, websites, and full promotional campaigns.

Top submitters to the contest this year were California State University-Northridge (37 entries), Sacramento State (22), California State University-Dominguez Hills (17), and California State University-Fullerton (13).

Alden Brownstone of California State University-Fullerton won Best in Show. He has since graduated, but was working part-time for Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), the recognized student government at California State University-Fullerton, when he contributed to the winning campaign: Beyond the Conversation.

“The campaign was designed and primarily executed by Brownstone (design, digital portrait illustration, color, textures, layout, etc.) with a few other student designers assisting with asset production for other formats when he was unavailable during shifts,” said Brownstone’s supervisor Art Serna, coordinator of digital media content for the marketing team at ASI.

Beyond the Conversation was used to promote a Spring 2022 speakers’ series held at Cal–Fullerton featuring former competitive swimmer Michael Phelps, actor Daniel Dae Kim, and activist Angela Davis. The winning campaign stood out for its moody and painterly yet realistic portraits of Phelps, Kim, and Davis. The campaign also took first place in the Promotional Campaign category for students.

Brownstone beat out 50 other entries in the Promotional Campaign category, the most of any other category. Other popular categories included Posters (42 entries) and Video/Animation (34 entries). Judges selected Best in Show from professional and student winners across all 16 categories. To win their respective category and Best in Show, entries are all judged on concept, design, content, and effectiveness.

This year, California State University–Fullerton was also home to a third-place professional winner in the Miscellaneous category (Mike Greenless), two third-place student winners (Colin Vail and Natalia Medina), and two honorable student mentions (Lillian Van and Vyvyan Nguyen in the Promotional Campaign category). In addition, another California State University–Fullerton student, Alyssa Fujiwara, took home second place in the Cards/Invitation category.

Last year, Sacramento State Graphic Designer Erin Umipeg won Best in Show for creating a concept for her university union’s Visiting Artists campaign calendar. Umipeg’s bold approach paid off again this year, winning her first place in the Posters category for her Kornbread Jete & LaLa Ri piece, a splashy, colorful advertisement fitting for an upbeat event featuring performers from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Umipeg also took second place in the Promotional Campaign category with her informative and eye-catching WELLcome Back festival campaign.

Other notable wins came from the University of North Texas and the University of California-Irvine. Both submitted eight entries and won four first places.

ACUI thanks all Steal This Idea applicants, winners, and judges for their hard work and contributions to a rich marketplace of ideas designed to inspire those in the student union profession. Access the Bulletin’s 2023 Steal this Idea issue, and remember, borrowing ideas is welcomed!


  • Christine Preusler

    Christine Preusler, Managing Editor at The Wyman Company in Gainesville, Florida, writes The Lead for ACUI's biweekly newsletter, The Bulletin. Christine uses more than 15 years of experience in publication management and a master’s in mass communications from the University of Florida to highlight the latest industry news and create thought-provoking content. Contact her via email ( with story ideas and announcements you'd like to see in the newsletter.