Who’s Who at VCU Business: Scott Witthaus
Author: Megan Nash
Meet Scott Witthaus, an Associate Professor at VCU Brandcenter bringing 35 years of industry experience in film and video. From crafting creative editorial companies to steering media operations, his journey led him to the #1 graduate program for branding and marketing. As a maestro of visual storytelling, Scott takes pride in kindling students’ passion, propelling them to surpass expectations.
Alright, let’s dive in! How about we kick things off with a few easy questions?
Can you share a bit about your educational journey? Where did you go to school, and what was your major?
I have my BS in Mass Communications from VCU and my master’s in education and instructional technology from Virginia Tech.
What inspired you to pursue a career in your field, and how has your journey evolved over the years?
I have been teaching at the Brandcenter for 17 years. Before that, I had my own creative editorial company in Richmond, Virginia and before that I was VP of Operations for a large media company based out of Washington D.C.
So, if you would have told me 18 years ago that I would be a professor at the #1 graduate program for branding and marketing, I would have said you were crazy! But the opportunity came along and I really could not refuse the offer and it’s been a great ride. I truly learn as much from my students each semester as they learn from me.
Can you share a memorable experience from your teaching career that had a significant impact on your approach to education?
I teach a class called Visual Storytelling, that teaches students how to take an idea or concept and create a video story from that concept (commercials are just one example). There is a fair bit of technical information in this class, so some students are very “wary!” That said, I will never tire of watching students create something that they never thought they could accomplish at the start of the semester – so very cool!
But the proudest I have ever been of a team of students was not even an in-class, graded assignment. I am on the board of Hold Fast, an organization for veterans who are struggling with PTSD. Hold Fast needed branding, a communications strategy, a logo … basically everything. I had a team of five students volunteer to tackle the job and each had their own reason to be a part of the initiative. When this team of students presented their work to Hold Fast members, there was not a dry eye anywhere. I mean, these are hardened veterans and this team of students created thoughtful, purposeful work that was exactly on target. I was incredibly proud of that group!
That is quite a story! And, so important too. What a great experience and opportunity for the students and veterans to connect in such a meaningful away. Your path to where you are today is really impressive, I wonder what other gems can be uncovered …
What’s the quirkiest or most interesting research experiment or project you’ve been a part of?
I truly believe that AI is going to going to change the way our graduates will work in marketing and advertising, so I have been incorporating AI into the projects that students are assigned.
As a group, we are learning more and more about where the technology is strong and where it falls down. It’s amazing to see how far the AI technology has advanced in a span between last spring semester and this past fall semester. I try to coach my students not to be afraid of AI.
We (and I mean “we” as a school) need to figure out where AI fits into the creative process and how we can use the technology to make our graduates more valuable to future employers.
If you could swap jobs with someone in an entirely different field for a week, who would it be and why?
I would love to be a Foley artist.
Foley artists are the ones who create sounds that might be needed in a film or tv show. Need a sound of a window breaking? Shoes on a concrete floor? Chainsaw motor? A Foley artist gets to create all that and more (and break stuff!). That sounds like a fun job!
Can you share a surprising or funny classroom moment that has happened during your teaching career?
A couple of semesters ago, I had a student call me “brah” when thanking me for something. I think he just kind of forgot that he was in a classroom situation. Needless to say, he was a bit worried at what he said (I thought it was very funny). I told him not to worry about it, but his nickname was “brah” for the rest of the semester!
Overheard at VCU Business
“Scott is an amazing example of what you want from a creative leader. He’s endlessly curious, passionate about his craft and, most importantly, he truly cares about his students. He listens to ideas earnestly and with great heart for collaboration. But know this, if you’re heading down the wrong path, Scott will not hesitate to set you straight. And we love him for it!”
– Holly Hessler, Professor, Copywriter, VCU Brandcenter