Vann GravesExecutive director
Vann Graves joined the Brandcenter as executive director in August, 2018, bringing 20+ years of creative and executive leadership experience. His work has been recognized with numerous industry awards including Cannes Lions, Grand London International Awards, a Grand Clio and the D&AD Graphite Pencil.
Prior to joining the Brandcenter, Vann served as Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson ATL; EVP, Global Executive Creative Director at McCann New York; VP, Creative Director at BBDO New York; and CoFounder at FL+G, a full-service branding agency in Denver Co.
Vann brings together creative and business expertise to the Brandcenter, having worked on some of the world’s leading global brands (Coca-cola, MasterCard, the U.S. Army, GE, M&M’s, Snickers, Visa to name a few). Throughout his career, he has put a high value on collaboration and commitment to support innovation and high-quality creative work.
Contributing to his approach to creative leadership is Vann’s experience in the military. A Fulbright scholar, he holds degrees from Howard University, the Pratt Institute and Harvard University.
Emma BaroneAssistant director of student affairs
Emma is a native New Yorker who has made Richmond her home. She spent seven years working with undergraduates and high school students and is excited to transition into working with graduate students. Her skills include expert googling, taking too many pictures of her dog, and convincing you to listen to another true-crime podcast.
Caley CantrellProfessor, strategy
Caley was called “an unguided missile waiting to explode” by one of her college professors and “a bull in a china shop” by a former boss. Fortunately, she stumbled upon advertising as a career, and the fast pace and creative climate suited her just fine. Caley is at her happiest when she is trying to unpack and solve a problem, making strategy the perfect focus for her. She is forever grateful to the person who invented the white board – it’s hard to keep her from doodling. She is devoted to The New York Times, NPR and watching her students hit a project out of the park. She uses far too many ALL CAPS and exclamation points in her emails.
Jordan ChildsProfessor of practice, brand management
Son of an optimist & a psychologist. Brother to a caffeine arbitrator. Husband to the fearless. Resourceful father. Enterprising residential putterer. Lawn warrior. Corporate secessionist. Open-air leisurist. Airline tray organizer. Opportunity exhauster. Late arriver. Dark City citizen. Car camper. Chronic re-user. Visual learner. Shoddy test taker. Dogma rejector. Chronic detail forgetter. Marriage ballaster. Eighth grade drummer. Classic rock aficionado. Dad bod rocker. House Renovator. Hammock champion. Zeitgeist clinician. Dexterous designer. Long-winded talker. Mountaineer. Anxious American. Middling Athlete. Functional footwear shopper. Car seat installer. Subscription hedonist. Illegal downloader. Chevy driver. Spontaneous weed picker. Retail enthusiast. Highly-efficient packer. Prime Member. Entry-level old pro. Dual-brain worker. Walkabouter. Youtube educated. Distraction luster. Movie guzzler. Novice teacher. Creative Brand Manager. Old North Stater.
Dean CollinsNetwork analyst
Computer janitor and resident thaumaturgist
Peter CoughterProfessor, persuasion
Peter Coughter is the author of the highly acclaimed The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business, so it makes perfect sense that he teaches persuasion to students in all tracks.
He knows what he’s talking about, having spent the past 40 years persuading audiences, first as a founder and president of Siddall, Matus & Coughter, for years one of the most respected advertising agencies in the Southeast, and more recently as president of Coughter & Company, helping businesses and people from all over the world prosper and grow.
In the past few years, he’s helped win over $100 million in revenue for his advertising agency clients. Perhaps his biggest win was helping the city of Boston convince the U.S. Olympic Committee to choose Boston as the candidate for the 2024 Olympic Games.
He’s been called “the preeminent trainer of presentation skills for the advertising industry,” and his lessons are a valuable component of the Brandcenter curriculum.
Peter resides in Richmond, Virginia, with his wife, Cynthia.
Rachel EnsingDirector of recruitment and admissions
Rachel attended both University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (BA in Psychology) and the University of Miami (MS in Higher Education Administration/ Enrollment Management). She’s worked for NC State University as both an Admissions Counselor and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions. She worked for The College Board, Access to Opportunity Division, where she focused on diversity initiatives related to Native American college students and first generation college students. Prior to joining the Brandcenter Rachel was an Educational Advisor to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need.
Wayne GibsonProfessor, creative
As a director, Wayne has won numerous national and international awards, including two gold medals in the New York Film Festival and a gold and silver in the Houston Film Festival. His work has been recognized by The One Show, CA Annuals, Clio Awards, Awards Magazine, Campaigns Magazine, Adweek, Creativity and the Canadian Marketing Awards.
Wayne has been represented by HSI, Populuxe Pictures, the Story Companies and Radke Films in Canada. He has freelanced with numerous production companies such as RSA, EUE Screen Gems and Tate and Partners to name a few. Having directed over 300 commercials, two shorts and one feature, Wayne now owns and operates his own production company, Mad Fish Films.
Prior to directing, Wayne spent several years on the agency side as both art director and creative director. Most of his career was spent at the Martin Agency, but he also worked at Earle Palmer Brown, Tracey Locke, Hill Holliday and Westbrook Inc.
While on the agency side of advertising, he was twice named as one of the top 10 creatives in America. As an art director, Wayne received over 200 regional, national and international awards, including six gold, three silver and three bronze pencils at The One Show.
Various other awards include the London International Awards, The L.A. Art Directors Awards, Clio Awards and ANDYs. Wayne was one of the first Americans to have work recognized twice in the prestigious British D&AD Annuals. Several of his ads are archived in the Smithsonian Institution.
Wayne is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor of Science in advertising. He also has an associate's degree in fine arts.
Andrea GroatSenior director of finance and administration
Andrea handles all things that require paperwork: financial management, HR, curriculum, and more. You’ll find her in her office with a calculator and no. 2 pencil close at hand.
Berwyn HungProfessor, creative
Berwyn has had an interesting journey so far. He's always been fascinated by how things work. Through the years, many items were taken apart and occasionally improved. He's definitely a tinkerer, but his tinkering is not limited to technology. Every board game had house rules. Every object had a dual purpose. Learning the why was a constant and understanding the why became a necessity. Setting out on a path of art and self discovery brought new insights from within. From master bookmaker and printer to eastern and western paper maker, from the early days of computer programming to a focus on futurism, Berwyn is an amalgamation of very different parts into a somewhat coherent whole. He exists in the now but also looks to the future with AR eyes, constantly picturing how a new reality will affect the development of communication in our society.
He also concepts, designs and has a microtargeting system built into his vision, a 3-D rendering machine in his brain, a letterpress studio, the power to find four-plus leaf clovers and heal computers and people without touching them, as well as an overactive EM field.
Don't be surprised if he references something he's invented in his head as something that actually exists. The two realities he lives in often are hard to tell apart.
Andrew LeVasseurProfessor, experience design
On any given day, you will find Andrew working with others to concept, design, prototype and bring their original ideas to life. He helps students make things — ads, interfaces, apps, wearables, robots, flying machines — things we haven't yet dreamed of.
As head of the Experience Design track, he helps shape the vision, curriculum and course content. As a professor, he teaches multiple courses focused on strategy, design and technology. Andrew joined the Brandcenter as an adjunct in 2009, where he played a large role in establishing the Creative Technology track (a precursor to the Experience Design track).
In his career, Andrew has worked for top agencies like Razorfish and The Martin Agency. He has also launched and helped grow multiple start-up companies. His brand credits include Barclays, Best Buy, Capella University, Capital One, Harrahs Entertainment, Hawaiian Airlines, Holland America, Microsoft, Michelin–BFGoodrich, Verizon FiOS and Weight Watchers, among others.
His focus areas include brand strategy, user experience design, information architecture, interaction design, software, information systems and process design, technology and new media, applied research and analytics.
Patrice LewisProfessor of practice, strategy
Patrice is a senior advisor at SIR (a strategic management consultancy), overseeing and providing strategic guidance on successful communications and public relations projects for major clients. She is a lead at SIR on community engagement and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Patrice boasts the skills of not only a savvy research professional — conducting secondary research, interviewing participants, creating questionnaires and analyzing quantitative data, and uncovering insights from high-profile quantitative studies. But she also is an agile advisor and account supervisor —developing and implementing communications plans, creating and providing print, digital, and social media materials, and managing all the parts and pieces to a budget or proposal.
Patrice teaches market research methodologies as an adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Maryland.
Isabelle MoutonAdmissions data specialist
Isabelle is a VCUarts alumna and seasoned university admissions specialist who is passionate about higher education and the arts. Familiar with all things admissions, she assists prospective students as they complete the application process. You'll probably find her poring over spreadsheets, giving tours of the Brandcenter, and talking about her cats and guinea pigs.
Michael MullenProfessor, creative
Michael got his start in advertising by bumping into a brand manager from Gillette at a cocktail party. Clichéd, but true. It was 1988, and his solution to the brand manager’s marketing problem was bought on the spot.
Since then, Michael has created work for dozens of other big brands such as Career Builder, Cox Digital Cable, Dove, Lipton, Nintendo and Sony. As both a senior copywriter and a creative director at The Martin Agency, he’s also produced work for Fairfield Inn, Geico, Lender’s Bagels, Network Solutions, Saab and Walmart. Along the way, he’s racked up thousands of print ads, more than 300 radio spots and over 400 TV/video shoots with budgets ranging from $0 to $1.2 million.
A storyteller to his core, Michael is also a published poet. His 100+ awards and recognitions include those from Communication Arts, Graphis, the New York Festival, Print Magazine, Shoot Magazine, Adweek, Addy Awards and various film festivals.
Michael has also taught freshman composition at Virginia Commonwealth University and was an adjunct professor at the VCU Brandcenter for three years before becoming a full-time professor in 2015. He holds a B.A. in philosophy and religion from Hampden-Sydney College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from VCU.
Diana OjibwayDesigner in residence
A graduate of the Brandcenter (AD, 2002), Diana brings our creative needs to life. When she’s not working on SIXTY Magazine or other Brandcenter projects, you can find Diana freelancing or sitting at a sports complex cheering on her three boys.
Kelly O'KeefeProfessor, creative brand management
Kelly O’Keefe has been a marketing innovator for over 20 years. Prior to becoming a professor and managing director of the VCU Brandcenter, Kelly led O’Keefe Marketing, a pioneer in digital marketing and branding.
O’Keefe Marketing received over 100 major awards, and its work is cited in numerous books and journals, including Business @ the Speed of Thought by Bill Gates. The agency was named Southeast Agency of the Year by Adweek Southeast, and Kelly was named Virginia Entrepreneur of the Year and Richmond Ad Person of the Year.
Kelly has been a strategic brand adviser to clients like GE, ESPN, Walmart, Hamilton Beach, Sesame Workshop, National Association of Broadcasters, UPS and The Home Depot. He has served as a founding board member of both the VCU Brandcenter and the Ad:Tech conference, and has been a board member of the Future of Advertising Project at Wharton, Southern Technology Council, FIRST Robotics Competition, September 11 Victims’ Relief Fund, Virginia Council of CEOs, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, St. Joseph’s Villa, Trinity Episcopal School and several corporations.
Kelly’s commentary on branding has been featured in media like CNBC, CNN/fn, Fox, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USAToday, BusinessWeek, Brandweek, Time Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Advertising Age, the Washington Post and the LA Times.
The VCU Brandcenter was named the No. 1 graduate advertising program by Creativity magazine and became the first winner of the 4A’s O’Toole award for the Best Advertising School, a title it still holds.
Jonathan PittsIT support specialist
Jonathan’s extensive background in advertising, higher ed and Apple products makes him the perfect storm of tech support for the Brandcenter.
Rick PlautzProfessor of practice, creative
When Rick graduated from the Brandcenter in 2014, he was voted “Most Likely to Use Cinema 4D for No Reason” unanimously by his peers. He's parlayed that fascination into teaching Experience Design and Art Direction students how to use the program in order to execute on their imagination. He plays drums, dabbles with the piano, writes comedy, makes worlds in 3D and finds pleasure in a screen full of keyframes in After Effects. His advice to new parents is to always get more napkins.
Amy RobinsonOffice manager
Brandcenter travel gnome, personal shopper, scholarship fairy and scheduling architect
Kevin RothermelProfessor, strategy
Kevin is an example of what can happen when someone grows up with a steady diet of music videos, sketch comedy shows, the History Channel, violent video games, a drum kit, and an unhealthy interest in technology.
After causing his parents endless nights of worry, Kevin found his way to the VCU Brandcenter, which led to a career driving creative strategy and digital thinking for world-renowned brands like Apple, Microsoft, and Cadillac at agencies like The Martin Agency, Eleven Inc., and Modernista.
Kevin believes in coffee, salsa, and the Oxford comma.
KT SchaefferProfessor, creative
When not helping everyone she knows pick the perfect paint color or rearranging furniture for optimal energy flow at a party, you can find Katie, most likely doodling up her next big idea in one of the many journals she has acquired (ok, hoarded) throughout her lifetime.
For 20+ years, Katie has been leveraging her design talent (or what she refers to as “Making Magic”) to create the unimagined experience for a global consumer audience for such advertising, retail, and entrepreneurial industry giants as The Martin Agency, Anthropologie, NIKE, and Sugar Paper Los Angeles.
A graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University (1995) and the VCU Brandcenter (2001), Katie polished her skills in graphic design and art direction with a side helping of copywriting and strategic planning. Katie deems the title of creative catalyst to be the best fit today. She personifies the definition being a person that quickly causes change or action in every project she is taking on.
Her focus is to be a creative problem solver and takes great joy in teaching others how to get out of their own way to see great design, product development, or an environment from a different perspective.
After living in New York, Washington, DC, Atlanta and Los Angeles for the past 16 years she relocated back to Richmond, VA to be closer to her family (not for the humidity!). In her spare time you will find her figuring out her new tabletop letterpress, keeping her plants alive, annoying her big sister with her creative genius, or hanging with her two cats Freddie Pickles and Theodore Toulouse.
Tom ScharpfProfessor, creative
A 1998 graduate of the inaugural class of the Brandcenter, Tom Scharpf is excited to return to VCU after a 21-year career at some of the best creative agencies in the business. Most recently, Tom was Executive Creative Director and Executive Vice President at Leo Burnett, Chicago. While in the Windy City, Tom ran the creative global Samsung mobile business and recently led the charge in winning the Coors Light account.
Prior to Leo Burnett, Scharpf spent 12 years at renowned creative independent Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco, helping them grow from a small 45-person national shop to a global agency of 200 and picking up a slew of creative awards along the way. While at Venables, Tom ran the Intel, Reebok, Conagra, Adidas Golf, Barclays and Chipotle accounts, while also helping to land new business wins on Audi, SKYY Vodka, and Google Fiber. During his time there, Scharpf picked up 8 Cannes Lions for his work on Intel, Reebok, and Barclays financial and led the charge for a documentary film for Intel that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Prior to VB&P, Tom was a much sought-after freelancer working coast to coast at agencies such as BBH NYC, Chiat/Day, Butler Shine & Stern, Y&R Chicago, DDB/NY, and David & Goliath working on the likes of Johnnie Walker, Adidas, Electronic Arts, Dyson, and Converse. Tom’s first job out of VCU was at Fallon in Minneapolis where he did award-winning work for United Airlines, Holiday Inn Express, Starbucks, Nikon and Miller Lite.
While still a student at the Brandcenter, Tom garnered two Cannes Lions as an intern for his work on Jaguar at Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto, and won the coveted Harry Jacobs Award as top Art Director in his class.
His work has been featured in Communication Arts, The New York Times, Ad Age, Luerzer's Archive, and has been named Adweek's "Ad of the Day" on eight separate occasions. His work has been awarded by D&AD, The Clios, the Addy’s, The Art Director’s Club, The One Show, AICP, The London International Awards, the Effies and the Cannes International Festival of Creativity.
In addition to having a graphic design background, Tom prides himself on being a strong writer and strategic thinker. In his spare time, he attends to his three children, takes photographs of Americana, writes children’s books, and plays no more than five chords on his guitar.
Ashley SommardahlSenior director, academic & student affairs
Part teacher, coach, adviser, mom, therapist and agent
PJ SykesAdministrative assistant
The Brandcenter’s gatekeeper, PJ keeps things organized and filters out the riffraff. You’ll find him at the front desk sipping coffee and listening to Spotify at a reasonable volume.
Emily ToalsonDirector of development
Emily Toalson joined the VCU Brandcenter as Director of Development in 2014. She has lengthy experience in a higher education fundraising environment and has had significant involvement in all aspects of institutional advancement programs. Her work includes volunteer management, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of prospects and donors as well as deferred giving programs. She plans and participates in corporate, foundation and individual giving and actively seeks to expand constituent groups who will invest in the VCU Brandcenter. Her previous experience includes Associate Regional Director of Major Gifts at Virginia Tech, Director of Development at John Tyler Community College and Assistant Director of Leadership Annual Giving/Special gifts at Radford University. She earned an M.S. in Corporate and Professional Communications and a B.S. in Media Studies/minor in Public Relations from Radford University.
Shannon WilkeExecutive coordinator
Shannon has an affinity for organization and post-it notes. And organized post-it notes.
Scott WitthausProfessor, visual storytelling
With 35 years of film and video industry experience, Scott has worked in almost every area of production and post-production, from live television to creative editorial for agency work (not to mention six “lost” years working in radio). After being named senior editor and general manager for several locations of Henninger Media Services, he was promoted in 2001 to vice president and general manager of operations for the company, where he held a leadership role in the company’s five locations across the country.
Scott returned to Richmond and his creative roots in 2003 to start Greybox LLC, a true creative editorial house located in Shockoe Bottom. In the fall of 2006, he branched out again and created 1708 Inc./Editorial. This new company takes full advantage of emerging technologies for creative editorial and eliminates geography as a barrier to the creative process. Scott has won multiple national awards for his work. In 2011 he was asked to be a judge for the AICP Awards and still judges that competition today.
Recruited to join the Brandcenter in 2008, Scott teaches Visual Storytelling and Portfolio Development classes and also continues to edit professionally for agency clients via 1708 Editorial. In 2016, Scott branched out again and formed Low Country Creative LLC, a partnership that was awarded a U.S. patent for a security product he hopes to bring to the market soon.
Scott graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1981 with a degree in mass communications, and in 2015 he received a Master of Arts in instructional technology from Virginia Tech. When not working or teaching, Scott can usually be found somewhere on the Chesapeake Bay.