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.
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.
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.
Mark FenskeProfessor, creative
In 1978 Mark started at a small agency in Atlanta that no longer exists. Then he spent two years at a small agency in Chicago that no longer exists. Followed by five years at the then largest agency in the world, Young & Rubicam.
In 1984 he went to Zechman & Associates in Chicago, where he says he finally started to do what he does.
In 1986 he went to work at Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, where he “learned how high to aim.” In 1990 he started the Bomb Factory in Los Angeles, an ad agency/commercial production hybrid. He wrote and directed Van Halen’s “Right Now” music video, which won MTV's Video of the Year and Director of the Year in 1992, directed music videos for the Indigo Girls and commercials for Coke, Nike, Coors Light and others, and at the same time was visiting creative director at Cole & Weber in Seattle, as well as an instructor at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena from 1989 to 2000.
In 1995 he became chief creative officer of N.W. Ayer in New York. They fired him in 1996.
A member of the Screen Actors Guild, he has done numerous voice-overs, including ones for Nike, Subaru and Cheez-It.
He’s been teaching at the VCU Brandcenter in Richmond, Virginia, since 2001.
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.
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.
Don JustProfessor, creative brand management
Don Just has had a fascinating career, or shall he say four careers. At age 28, armed with an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden School, he was named president of an international banking company, two years later named president of a large domestic bank in Northern Virginia, and at 34, chief banking officer of a major Richmond-based bank holding company. He traveled the world, dealing with various heads of state, global political figures and international financiers, including Aristotle Onassis.
Along the way, Don established branch offices in the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Mexico City, and experienced a variety of adventures. He delivered the first domesticated sea turtle eggs from the stern of a 300-pound mother on a manmade beach in the Cayman Islands. He was on the negotiating team working to acquire Onassis’s Zurich-based bank. He financed infrastructure projects throughout South America, including the effort to rebuild Nicaragua following the earthquake.
Don once financed a ship called the Night Train and had to repossess and sell it. A buyer showed up in Richmond with a grocery bag full of cash and purchased it on the spot. Today, Don wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some months later, the DEA seized the ship in Miami and the buyer’s body was discovered in a river. Thirty years ago, though, he was naive in such matters. There are many more stories, including spending time in dictator Anastasio Samosa’s underground bunker, duck hunting with Uzis in Central America (no ducks were killed) and financing an island in the Bahamas that, some years later, became a drop point for the South American drug cartel.
In 1982, Don traded his pinstripes for a designer suit and a longer hairstyle and was named president of the Martin Agency, a small local shop with about 18 very talented people who were seeking to play on the national stage. Over the next decade, the agency ranks grew more than tenfold, agency billings approached $250 million and the agency had satellite offices throughout the country.
After negotiating the sale of the agency to a major global marketing conglomerate, Don left to purchase, together with his wife, an inn and restaurant in the Outer Banks and to pursue a variety of successful entrepreneurial ventures. He left the agency in the capable hands of his longtime partner, John Adams, who over the next two decades directed its continuing, phenomenal growth trajectory.
Finally, 10 years ago, a fourth career opportunity opened when Don was challenged to develop and head the creative brand management track at the VCU business school’s prestigious and globally acclaimed Brandcenter, where he continues to serve today as a professor who is consistently rated by the students as one of the best and interim director. He’ll tell you that this last career stop has been the most fulfilling, because successfully sparring with 100 brilliant graduate students every day, all of whom are daring you to teach them something, can be challenging indeed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Scott WitthausProfessor, film/technology
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.
Dean CollinsNetwork analyst
Computer janitor and resident thaumaturgist
Andrea GroatAssociate director
Andrea handles all things that require paperwork: financial management, HR, curriculum, scholarships and more. You’ll find her in her office with a calculator and No. 2 pencil close at hand.
Katherine KeoghStudent affairs and communications manager
Katherine manages the Brandcenter website and social media, and she loves Fridays, especially because she coordinates the Brandcenter’s Friday Forum speaker series that brings in some of the most interesting and inspiring people she’s ever met.
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.
Amy RobinsonOffice manager
Brandcenter travel gnome, personal shopper, scholarship fairy and scheduling architect
Hawley SmythSenior admissions counselor
Hawley’s goal is to show prospective students the highly concentrated creative energy that lies within the school’s walls. She helps each individual applicant through the entire admission process, from “What track is the best fit for me?” to “Can you connect me with other incoming students looking for roommates?”
Ashley SommardahlDirector of student affairs and industry outreach
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.
Founder and CEO, Soul + Co
Chairman and chief creative officer, Collins
Chief Strategy Office Emeritus, The Martin Agency
Global chief creative officer, FCB
Chief marketing officer, National Basketball Association
Marketer, Brand Strategist, Entrepreneur
Chief Production Officer, DDB Chicago
Co-founder, Chapter SF
Co-Founder, The Brandery
Managing Partner, Vine St. Ventures
Strategic Advisor, Predicting The Turn
Chief creative officer, Publicis Groupe
President and CEO, CTAM
Founder and president, The McCarthy Company
President and CEO, Association of Independent Commercial Producers
Former senior executive, Warner Bros.
President and CEO, Stillwell Partners
Executive director, Advertising Week
Founding partner and CEO, Markham & Stein
Founder and CEO, Sylvain Labs
COO at timehop
The advisory board
Chairman, TBWA\Media Arts Lab
Director of media arts, TBWA\Worldwide
Founder and creative chairman, Droga5
Publisher, Smithsonian Media
Former worldwide creative director, WPP
Founder, creative, Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Executive vice president and chief creative officer, Hill Holiday
Author and consultant
Chairman and CEO, Interpublic Group
Former chairman and chief creative officer, DDB Worldwide
Chief creative officer, Ogilvy & Mather Chicago
Co-founder, Wieden + Kennedy