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.
Ashley SommardahlAssociate director
Part teacher, coach, adviser, mom, therapist and agent
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.
Brian BrownProfessor, creative brand management
Dr. Brian P. Brown is adept at bringing the corporate and academic communities together. Prior to embarking on his second career as a professor, he had a 15-year corporate career that included brand management positions at Coca-Cola, Director of Marketing at a “dotcom” startup, VP of Marketing at Snapper Power Equipment, and account executive at AT&T.
Dr. Brown is currently a Professor in the Department of Marketing at VCU, with teaching interests in brand strategy and marketing management. His research focuses on brand strategy, specifically brand strategy in B2B settings, and has been published in several of marketing’s top academic journals. Dr. Brown received the VCU School of Business Award of Excellence for his scholarship, teaching and service in 2019.
Dr. Brown earned his Ph.D. at Georgia State University, his MBA at Duke University, and his BA at the University of Virginia (UVA).
Caley CantrellProfessor, strategy and creative brand management
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.
Rian Chandler-DovisProfessor of practice, creative brand management
Rian Chandler-Dovis is an accomplished brand strategist, who blends her strong business acumen with creative thinking to uncover deep, actionable insights. Over the past decade, she has developed strategies for dozens of the world's best-known brands, including General Motors, American Express, Samsung, PepsiCo, Colgate, Macy’s, World Wildlife Fund, and others.
Over the course of her career, Rian has held positions on client-side as well as in agency and consultancy environments. She has also served on numerous non-profit boards and committees, from serving as a founding member of the Valley Chapter of the American Marketing Association of Central Virginia, to marketing chair for the board of Bridge of Hope Harrisonburg-Rockingham, VA, and a member of the capital campaign for the Explore More Discovery Museum in Harrisonburg.
Today, Rian is a partner at Brand Federation, a strategic consultancy in Richmond, VA. She has a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and a master’s degree from the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter.
Jordan ChildsProfessor of practice, creative 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
Benita CondeWellness strategist
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 Brandcenter finance
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.
Holly HesslerProfessor, copywriting
Holly Hessler is an Executive Creative Director with over a decade of experience in the advertising industry. After graduating from the VCU Brandcenter, she moved to LA where she worked at 72andSunny on brands such as Nike and Bugaboo, Chiat LA on Crate&Barrel and Diet Pepsi, Deutsch on Target and finally, Media Arts Lab on Apple. In 2018, she moved to NYC to take a job at McCann on Verizon. Her work has received recognition at Cannes, the One Show, D&AD, the Clios, the Webbys, and more but what she finds most satisfying is knowing something she helped create had a positive impact on the world. Throughout her career she has worked with non-profits including Conservation International, The One Love Foundation and the AdCouncil. She has a son named George who will always be infinitely cooler than she is.
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.
Matt JerniganDirector of special programs
Matt received a Master’s in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 with interests in executive education, higher education policy, and equity & diversity in higher education. Prior to joining the Brandcenter, Matt worked for three years at an executive doctoral program at Penn’s Graduate School of Education where he managed the smooth delivery of an academic curriculum to cohorts of 24 students. He worked on a student trip to Boulder, Colorado for a higher education public policy seminar as well as a trip to Beijing, China for an international context course in higher education.
Before his time in Philadelphia, Matt received a Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Tech and worked as an architect in Washington, DC for three years. He primarily focused on commercial office and multi-family residential buildings in the DC metro area at CallisonRTKL and Shalom Baranes Associates.
At the Brandcenter, Matt works on BCX organizing professional development courses for people looking to gain specific skills related to work in the creative industry.
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.
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.
Ken MarcusProfessor of practice, copywriting
Ken has been a copywriter in this nutty business for 25 years, at the Martin Agency for just over 12 years- where he is currently a Senior Copywriter. Working on clients as varied as Walmart, Pizza Hut, Nespresso, Ritz, Sling, Carmax and GEICO. For GEICO, Ken has worked on the “Happier Than,” “It’s What You Do,” “It’s GEICO Easy” and most recently, “Believe It!” campaigns. Ken’s work has been recognized by One Show, Cannes, D&AD, Communication Arts and Effies. He teaches the Brand Integration class at Brandcenter.
Sarah MurphyCommunications and marketing manager
Wordsmith. Bibliophile. Runner. Mother. Exclamation point skeptic. #TeamOxfordComma.
Sarah has split her career between the agency world and higher education. With a background in copywriting and public relations, Sarah helps tell the Brandcenter’s story through a wide variety of channels. Sarah received her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Mary Washington and holds a masters in strategic public relations from VCU.
Outside of the Brandcenter, you’ll find Sarah chasing after her toddler, serving on the board of the Public Relations Society of America Richmond Chapter, exploring the Richmond food scene, and discussing the pros and cons of area grocery stores.
Jeremy ParedesProfessor of practice, creative brand management
After a flip of the coin in a Brooklyn BBQ joint, Jeremy chose to attend the VCU Brandcenter over going to culinary school. After graduating in 2011, Jeremy spent the next decade building his career in account management leading branding, digital, experiential, and integrated marketing programs for a wide variety of brands. He is currently with Huge Brooklyn. Notable brands he's worked on include Casper, General Electric, Bacardi, P&G, and the Ad Council.
Jeremy came home to the Brandcenter in 2020 – albeit virtually from Brooklyn – to teach brand management. Despite the flip of the coin, Jeremy still worked in a culinary gig: he ran an underground restaurant in Brooklyn called The Brickyard, where he cooked up a monthly menu of 8-12 course meals to 40+ people.
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.
Daniel RiddickProfessor of practice, creative brand management
Daniel has marketing in his blood. His grandfather founded a typesetting agency (Riddick Advertising Art) in 1968 which evolved into a well-known Richmond advertising agency, purchased by Daniel’s father in 1984 and later closed in 2011 (Riddick Advertising).
In undergrad (Virginia Tech, Marketing, ’06) Daniel was certain that creativity needed to be present in whatever career he chose. Mixing in his instinctual sense for diplomacy and problem solving made Account Management a natural choice.
In 2008 Daniel graduated in the 2nd class of Creative Brand Managers in existence, from the newly named “VCU Brandcenter” and headed straight to New York City.
Daniel has 10+ years of account management experience at great agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi NYC (Pillsbury / Cheerios), Arnold Worldwide NYC (Hershey’s) and in 2015, returned to Richmond as Director of Client Services for Big River.
In 2017, Daniel transitioned to the client side and is currently the Director of Marketing and Communications at Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods.
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, KT 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), KT 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.
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.
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.