Congrats to VCU School of Business alumnus Ankit Kothari (MBA ’08) on his new photo tool patent that will allow event attendees to upload and share their event photos to one place. This community photo sharing tool will provide event hosts with greater coverage and easier access to photos taken at an event. Read the Richmond Times Dispatch article here.
Caley Cantrell is a faculty member at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter and head of the strategy track. Prior to transitioning from adjunct faculty to full-time faculty, Caley built an impressive résumé working for such prestigious agencies as JWT and The Martin Agency. Her position at the Brandcenter blends her experience in the ad world with academic rigors challenging current graduate students in the program. She has worked with student teams on projects for Goodwill Industries, Audi of America, C-K, The Ritz-Carlton, Tribeca Film Festival, Oreo and The Department of Defense.
Caley has been a consistent donor to the Brandcenter for more than five years, including making gifts to fund annual scholarships and designating the Brandcenter in her estate plans. In 2014, she took her commitment to her students one step further and endowed a scholarship for students in the strategy track.
Why do you give?
Working closely with students as I do, you see that they’re investing a lot of time and money in being here. Most quit their jobs to come to the Brandcenter because it’s such a demanding and immersive program. I’m proud that I’m able to give students a “leg-up” on their education.
I think I was like a lot of people who thought that making an ongoing donation was beyond their checkbook. I didn’t think I could make what I thought was a significant enough donation, but as I found, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought. When you think about students who are making sacrifices to pay their tuition, even a little bit can help make a difference for them.
Before I endowed the Cantrell Scholarship, I had been giving to Brandcenter annual scholarships. After my mom passed away in 2013, I decided I wanted to create something with permanence that would also honor my mother, whom had been an educator. An endowed scholarship did both, and as a faculty member I believe in our program, so I decided to put my money where my mouth was.
Did you have any experiences as a faculty member that helped to inspire your philanthropy?
We’re a small program, so I’ve been able to build strong relationships my students over the years. Overall, a lot of students come into this program with a sense of what they’ll be doing, but it’s still pretty uncertain. Over the course of the two years they’re with us, you see them struggle, and then they turn a corner where you see them click and develop this confidence; I look forward to seeing that change.
Every student is different. Some may be very confident in their work, but scared to present, or they may have ideas and just need organization; I find that growth to be fascinating to watch.
Do you have any advice for current students or recent graduates?
We have a very supportive alumni base who are eager to participate in our program and interact with our students. I want to encourage our alumni to please keep it up, as you cannot underestimate, what might seem like an easy piece of encouragement, can do to motivate a current student.
Read about previously featured friends and alumni:
At the Faculty and Staff meeting on Tuesday, August 18th, Professor Laura Razzolini announced the winners of the 2014-2015 Dean’s Teaching Excellence Awards.
The 2014-2015 Committee was composed by Peter Aiken, Brian Brown, Pam Burch, Donna Byrd, and Laura Razzolini.
During the month of January 2015 the committee ran a poll of the alumni and student body. They received 115 nominations: 67 from alumni and 48 from students. A total of 53 faculty were nominated as excellent teachers.
After carefully reading the alumni and student nominations, analyzing syllabus, data on teaching and teaching evaluations, and reading each faculty member’s writing summary in the FES (teaching section), the Committee identified the following three individuals for the excellence in teaching award:
Alumni most preferred teacher: Rasoul Tondkar, Ph.D., Controllers Executive RoundTable Professor of Accounting
Students and alumni refer to professor Tondkar as “motivating,” “inspirational” and “a truly gifted professor,” “… sort of an icon in the EMBA program.” He always encourages students to persevere. He goes above and beyond what is expected from a university professor to make sure his students will succeed at VCU and in their future life. He demands excellence in the classroom and forces his students to work hard. As a consequence, students are well prepared for “what it takes to be successful in the accounting field.” Several of his PhD students have been awarded outstanding dissertation prizes by the American Accounting Association for work done while at VCU under Dr. Tondkar’ s supervision. Well after graduating, students keep seeking Professor Tondkar’s advice at every step of their career, and he is always supportive and encouraging. Using the words of a 1990 alumnus, “Professor Tondkar transmitted to his students a discipline, a love for learning and a deep respect for the academic profession.”
Best undergraduate & graduate teacher: Robert Andrews, Ph.D., Associate Professor Emeritus of Supply Chain Management and Analytics
“Dr. Andrew is awesome!” “Unfortunately for us, Dr Andrews is planning to soon retire….and the resounding sentiment is that he will be sorely missed.” Dr. Andrews is commended for his teaching qualities: he makes the material understandable; he relates abstract concepts to real life situations; he communicates in a fun, fair and clear style; he shares with the students his personal class notes of exemplary quality; he makes the students understand the data. Dr. Andrews helps his students with academic issues as well as with personal life situations, his door is always open and he listens patiently. In conclusion, many undergraduate and graduate students agree that “He has been by far the best teacher we have ever had at VCU!”
Most inspiring teacher:Jon Hill, Term Faculty in Accounting
In the words of an alumnus, Professor Hill “is an amazing professor with an outstanding level of commitment to his students, to Beta Alpha Psi and to VCU Business Alumni.” Professor Hill is commended for the large number of classes he teaches and both alumni and students all agree that he “is an inspiration, a mentor and a great professor;” he “shows passion in everything he does and wants his students to really learn.” Professor Hill is famous for his smile and sunny disposition and his level of enthusiasm has led students to a broader and deeper involvement with the School of Business and its mission.
Monday, Aug. 3, 2015In some circles, statistics have a bad reputation. Mark Twain implied statistics are the worst kind of lie, while humorist Evan Esar defined statistics as “the science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures.” Why the mistrust in statistics? Because understanding data can be difficult.
“Many misunderstand data’s role in decision-making – leading to confusion between cause and effect,” said Peter Aiken, Ph.D., associate professor of information systems in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business. “It’s light outside and it’s daytime. That’s a correlation, right? Well that’s interesting, but in this case, just because we passed 12 hours, doesn’t mean it caused the light to come back on. What caused it was the earth revolving. It is only through better management of the data surrounding these questions of light and dark that we can begin to understand various causes and effects.”
As an authority on data, Aiken teaches his students how data management can help organizations to better approach various decisions, including separating reality from randomness. The exercises are so effective the state has taken note, tasking Virginia Deputy Secretary of Technology Anthony Fung — known informally as “Deputy Secretary Data” — with overseeing the state’s data re-engineering internships among his other duties.
Last fall, Gov. Terry McAuliffe established the program through VCU to explore additional uses of data to improve citizen benefits and state government effectiveness and efficiency. Based on Aiken’s curriculum, the internships provide a unique opportunity for graduate students to collaborate with chief information officers of participating states agencies. The students work in teams of two or three to evaluate available data and identify specific business cases in which data can be used to improve decision-making.
Why is this so important? Well, “big data” is more than just jargon.
“Data is the only resource we have that is a nondepletable, nondegrading, durable, strategic asset,” Aiken said. “We spend or invest fiscal resources, we wear out as human beings, capital assets degrade over time. … All organizations maintain data assets and if you put in place a program to treat them with the respect they deserve, they will grow in value over time and more importantly the organization will mature in its ability to employ them productively in operations.”
About 20 state agencies and 45 students have participated in the internship since its launch last fall. Class participants gain practical experience using data to drive re-engineering. At the end of the semester, participating CIOs have concrete examples of how to make better use of data to provide innovative and less costly services to citizens.
For example, Aiken cites one agency that works with endangered children. Agency workers would go to homes with an 80-point checklist to evaluate specific cases. The VCU interns tested the variables to see how much impact each had.
“This team did a phenomenal job, determining [which] data collected had little or no impact on the cases,” Aiken said. “By getting rid of the data that’s in the way, we can concentrate on those aspects of the case that are really important. Separating correlation from causality. In the future, it will be easier to separate urgent from routine cases, permitting this agency to better allocate resources according to its mission.
“Once we have that type of a result, we can now package these results for other classes permitting increased analysis,” Aiken said. “The hope is that we can expand this program to other universities.”
Certainly the program benefits both the state and its students.
“We estimate that total agency benefits [include] permitting specialists to process more cases, focus more time on investigative work or reduce the paperwork requirements,” Fung said.
Benjamin Siegel has gotten so much out of the internship that he is now in his third semester of the program.
“Supplementing my textbook learning has increased my ability to meet prospective employer requirements,” said Siegel, an Army veteran who is pursuing a master’s degree in information systems. “I’ve grown by working on a real-world problem. I’m working with real-world people, with real-world problems and real-world deadlines. It motivates me to find the best possible solution because the outcome isn’t only a grade but the implementation of a solution I helped to create.”
While typically information systems students apply for the internship course, it’s open to any graduate student in the School of Business. The course does not require students to have an information systems background, but it does require a background in data. Aiken said the program has attracted students from just about every School of Business department, such as accounting, finance and logistics. Moreover, he sees such a future for data analysis that he’s proposing a data course for all business undergraduates and collaborating with Jeff South, associate professor in the Robertson School of Media and Culture, on a possible interdisciplinary project with students from both schools.
“Our thinking is that Peter’s students would focus on compiling and analyzing large data sets and that my students might focus on putting a human face to the data — by using the data as the foundation for news stories,” South said. “In data journalism, reporters analyze data, find trends and anecdotes to support those trends, and then write news stories that combine statistical analysis and compelling narrative.
“It’s hard to make people care about numbers, statistics and data. But if we show how the data connect to ‘real people,’ then we can get the information across.”
“If you looked at that, you’d say, ‘There must be a relationship,’ right?” Aiken said. “This is why we need the additional grounding to go in and say, ‘Is that coincidence or is that, in fact, causation?’”
Utilizing existing data to its fullest potential is a risk-free route to better efficiency.
“In a time when government is expected to do more with less,” Fung said, “data is a resource that we can turn into actionable information in order to get greater [return on investment] and improving programs and outcomes for our citizens. In government, we need to move toward a much more data-driven culture where we can measure the value we create.”
For more information on the governor’s data internship, contact Peter Aiken, Ph.D., firstname.lastname@example.org
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RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Virginia state government and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business will again work together on data re-engineering internships to explore the use of data to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of state government.
In the 2014-2015 school year, the data internship program’s first, 45 graduate students and more than 20 state agencies participated. Those internships have resulted in tangible dollar savings and improved agency processes. Student/agency teams have worked on successful projects, such as improving how the state prices and sells its goods and services, and more efficiently matching citizens to benefits when they enroll.
“The first year of our data internship partnership has been a success,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The program has helped the state save time and money by making some of our internal processes more efficient and modern. And it has given students valuable real-world experience. I look forward to seeing what the second year of the program can accomplish.”
“Data is an important resource that becomes even more critical as technology progresses,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “VCU is uniquely positioned, both in its location and through the wealth of talent at the School of Business, to help state agencies run their data-centric systems more efficiently, while giving our students hands-on practice in the development of data systems.”
During their internships, pairs of VCU students work closely with state agency CIOs to identify specific business cases in which data can be used. Participants gain practical experience in using data to drive re-engineering, while participating CIOs have concrete examples of how to make better use of data to provide innovative and less costly services to citizens.
“Working with the talented VCU students gave us a different perspective on what the data was telling us,” said Dave Burhop,Deputy Commissioner/CIO of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
“The VCU interns provided an invaluable resource to the Governor’s Coordinating Council on Homelessness,” said Pamela Kestner,Special Advisor on Families, Children and Poverty. “They very effectively reviewed the data assets available in the participating state agencies and identified analytic content that can be used to better serve the homeless population.”
“It’s always useful to have ‘fresh eyes’ on data that we are used to seeing,” said Jim Rothrock, Commissioner of the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. “Our interns challenged us and the way we interpret data. It was a refreshing and useful, and we cannot wait for new experiences with new students.”
The data internships support Governor McAuliffe’s ongoing initiative to provide easier access to open data in Virginia. The internships also support treating data as an enterprise asset, one of four strategic goals of the enterprise information architecture strategy adopted by the Commonwealth in August 2013. Better use of data allows the Commonwealth to identify opportunities to avoid duplicative costs in collecting, maintaining and using information; and to integrate services across agencies and localities to improve responses to constituent needs and optimize government resources.
Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson and CIO of the Commonwealth Nelson Moe are leading the effort on behalf of the state. Students who want to apply for internships should contact Peter Aiken (email@example.com) for additional information.
Ever since he was a kid, Matt Reamer has been awed by the special connection between his mom and his older brother Dustin. They have a way of communicating that is distinctly their own.
“She understands him in ways that even my dad and I don’t comprehend,” said Matt, who at 27 is three years younger than Dustin. “This unique language that they have developed is 30 years in the making, and still evolving.”
With everyone else though, Dustin, who has autism and is nonverbal, has struggled to communicate. So when Matt graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter in 2014 and was preparing to move across the country, he wanted to leave his family with something to make their lives easier.
A childhood photo of brothers Dustin and Matt Reamer.
He leveraged what he had learned at the Brandcenter — especially in his third-semester Physical Computing class — to come up with a device that would allow Dustin to communicate via long distance. Most augmentative and alternative communication devices on the market only allow communication between the caregiver and individual when they are within a few feet of each other.
“Essentially they are soundboards,” Matt said. “I took a look at a super-powerful, efficient
and inexpensive technology that we all take for granted — text messaging. Texts allow for longer distance communication and, for our family, for basic everyday needs that Dustin struggled to communicate in the past. This device provides more freedom for both my mom and for Dustin, reducing the physical strain of walking from room to room whenever he needs something. Now, my mom and the rest of the family can easily make sense of what Dustin needs.”
The Dustin’s Words device is about the size of a box of sandwich bags and displays six buttons on its top, each one communicating a different want or need. When the user pushes a button, the device sends a text message to the caregiver’s phone, allowing the caregiver to be in another part of the house or even across town.
While developing it, Matt tested the device with Dustin and their mother. He asked his mom questions about Dustin’s everyday life and customized the device to fit his routine. Every decision Matt made was centered around Dustin’s needs, likes and wants. For example, Dustin can now press a button to tell his mother he has a headache, to let her know he’s hungry or even to simply send a message that says, “I love you.”
A 3D rendering of the latest version of the Dustin’s Words device, which Matt Reamer and his team hope to produce and give away for free upon successful completion of their crowdfunding campaign.
After moving to Los Angeles, where he is an experience designer with ad agency Team One, Matt thought he was done with the project. His co-workers, however, saw potential in the device and enthusiastically encouraged him to continue with it. They thought it was possible that something designed out of love for a sibling could help many others in similar situations.
Matt has since started a nonprofit (his brother is listed as co-founder) to create and give free devices to those in need, further his research and continue testing new functionality and interaction patterns. Matt and his team of designers and technologists recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to build 100 devices.
Their goal is to create an affordable, customizable product that will give a voice to people who don’t speak for any number of reasons, whether it’s because they are autistic (a large percentage of people with autism are nonverbal) or have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury. If the crowdfunding campaign is successful, they plan to give the first 100 devices away for free to families in need. (To make a contribution, visit indiegogo.com/projects/dustin-s-words–4.)
Each device will be customized, right down to the name displayed on the side — instead of Dustin’s Words, for example, it can be called Emily’s Words. Each button and text message can be tailored to the individual depending on his or her needs, and at any time caregivers will be able access a central website where they can download printable icons to swap out with those currently on the buttons and change their corresponding text messages from the same website.
“With devices like this being so complex and expensive, we want to create a more modern and simplified version to meet the needs of a vast array of the Autism spectrum,” Matt said. “If you have donated or plan to donate to the cause through Indiegogo, you’re amazing. We will not let you down and hope to send you as many updates as possible of children using the device you helped give to them. And lastly, if anyone has any suggestions, knows someone who could benefit from the device or would like to help in anyway, please feel free to reach out.”
In this video, Matt Reamer explains how the Dustin’s Words device works and how the idea for it came about.
This week, Tom Wilson lined up with hundreds of recruiters from national agencies and corporations for a chance to talk with graduating Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter students.
If you think this is a typical story about career fairs, read that sentence again. The recruiters waited in line for a chance to speak with the students.
At the Brandcenter’s annual two-day recruiting session, dubbed the “reverse career fair,” students set up tables displaying their work. Prospective employers view the portfolios ahead of time so they have specific questions prepared for the students when they approach them.
For Wilson, creative director at JWT Atlanta, it was an impressive sight. Like most of the representatives there, he remembers what it was like to be an advertising grad student meeting with recruiters.
Only for him, “It was just 20 students going down to a room,” he said. “There were about 15 recruiters and we were the ones going table to table. Now the recruiters come to them.”
Wilson wasn’t lamenting how kids these days don’t know how good they have it. Rather, he was commenting on the sterling reputation the Brandcenter has built over the years — a reputation that started with the inaugural graduating class of 1998, of which a proud Wilson was a part.
“It sounds cliche, but the first class kind of set the bar pretty high and each class has measured up to that point or exceeded it, so our reputation now throughout the industry is great,” he said. “When people look at the resume — even though I’m a number of years in — I may be talking to an HR person or a creative director who also went to the VCU Brandcenter.”
Even for industry insiders who aren’t alumni, the Brandcenter’s reputation speaks for itself.
Wongdoody, an ad agency in Seattle and Los Angeles, and New York-based 360i each sent recruiters for the first time this year.
“I’m very impressed,” said Wongdoody’s Lori Hicks. “The old agency I worked for hired someone about two years ago from the Brandcenter and she was incredible. I mean she just hit the ground running. They know so much and have such a good skill set. It’s the place to get planners — and I went to Miami Ad School, so for me to even say that … is probably a little traitorous.”
Like Hicks, Erika Colon, a creative recruiter at 360i, has also worked with Brandcenter alumni.
“You guys have an excellent reputation. I actually have some internal employees that I’m close with that are alumni from here,” she said, adding that she hired two more alumni a few weeks ago. “I’ve actually been focusing mainly on the copywriters and art directors, but there’s two strategists I’m going to be meeting with soon, so I’m excited to see what they’re going to offer.”
Many of the students already have job offers, but didn’t want to miss out on the networking opportunity. They make contacts at this event that they keep through the years.
“This industry is really small, so your relationships in your network are really important,” said Nicole Weaver, creative brand manager. “I actually have an offer on the table, which is really exciting, but this event is really, really great because it’s an opportunity to meet people who work at all the agencies that we see great creative work coming from.”
Moreover, Weaver added, in addition to meeting agency peers, the event presented the opportunity to reach out to corporations outside the industry.
“I feel like a lot of other huge corporations don’t really know about us yet,” she said. “[With] people that are hiring brand managers, we’re slowly getting our name out there to the big industry outside of the advertising agencies. It’s really exciting to see what we can do and where everyone’s going.”
Some large corporations are taking note.
Andy Thieman, a creative lead with General Mills’ marketing department, said that while the consumer packaged goods company doesn’t have a creative department that it needs to bolster with writers and art directors, it does need strategic thinkers.
“This is the place to get all the young, hot talent,” he said. “We’re especially interested in the brand management track, so the strategists. … Their work is very smart. They think differently. It’s a nontraditional track.”
This year’s event broke records with more than 160 companies sending more than 250 representatives.
“It’s a great turnout,” Wilson said. “I think the work has been spectacular. It’s good to see where we were 17 years ago, to what it is now, which is absolutely amazing.”
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Makin’ Ads also had the opportunity to see what the Experience Design students have been up to.
At the VCU Brandcenter’s annual recruiter session, there’s a small group of tinkerers and builders and mad scientists who sit in the same room as art directors and copywriters, but kind of off to the side. Instead of ads, their tables are littered with drones and robots, hacked toys and games, tablets with app prototypes. Tangible things, things they’ve actually built. They are a new breed, a new creature in the industry. Until now, they’ve been called Creative Technologists.
I love talking to them about their work. I have a whole different set of questions than when I talk with the art directors and copywriters. Things like “What the hell is this?” “How’s it work?” “How did you make it?” “What’s this button do?” “Have you patented it?” And, usually in the back of my mind, “Wow, is this even advertising?”
This track—Creative Technology—has just been renamed Experience Design. We caught up with Andrew LeVasseur, the head of the Creative Technology/Experience Design track to get his take on VCU Brandcenter’s approach to technology and user experience, the future of the program and the reason for the name change.
Find out what Andrew had to say about the Experience Design track here.
Kenneth Daniels, Ph.D., professor of finance, School of Business has been invited to speak at the prestigious Sovereign Investor Institute Investor Roundtable in Cape Town, South Africa, Feb. 25–27. The Sovereign Investor Institute represents sovereign wealth funds from around the world and allows funds managers to engage in open dialogue about the current investment environment.
Fifty-seven delegates are scheduled to participate in the roundtable, including representatives from such various institutions as Bank of Tanzania, Bank of Uganda, Reserve Bank of South Africa, Nucleos Instituto De Seguridade Social (Brazil), FMO Netherlands, Regents of the University of California, Oxford University, Barclays Africa Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers and T. Rowe Price International.
Daniels will serve on a “spotlight session” panel discussing Government and Shareholder Rights along with:
Scott E. Kalb (Instigator)
Sovereign Investor Institute
Daniel Malan (Presenter)
Senior Lecturer, Business Ethics; Corporate Governance
University of Stellenbosch Business School
Dr. Renosi Mokate (Questioner)
Board Chair, GEPF
Executive Director, Graduate School of Business Leadership, UNISA University
Daniels, chairman of the board of the Richmond Retirement System, has participated in several investor roundtables sponsored by institutional investors. Virginia Commonwealth University’s participation in such internationally sponsored events signals the rising quality of the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate at the School of Business.
The annual Thalhimer Scholarship Luncheon was held at The Jefferson Hotel on Friday, February 6th, 2015. The Charles G. Thalhimer Family Endowment was established at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business through a generous gift from the family in 1986. In addition to supporting the Thalhimer Executive-in-Residence and the Thalhimer Scholar-in-Residence programs, the endowment awards two merit scholarships annually, one for a top graduate student and one for the top undergraduate student.
Mariam Bello, this year’s recipient of the undergraduate award, is a senior with dual majors in accounting and finance. While at VCU, Mariam has been involved in many student organizations including Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Honors Society, Beta Gamma Sigma Honors Society, and the Business Student Ambassador program. In addition to holding leadership positions in three student organizations, Mariam tutors at the VCU campus learning center. After graduation this May, Mariam plans to take the CPA exam, and hopes to live and work abroad in the future.
Miles Dumville, this year’s graduate recipient, is currently pursuing his MBA at the VCU School of Business. In addition to his full-time coursework, Miles has served on the School of Business Strategic Planning Committee as well as the Master’s Program Committee. He was also recently invited into the Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key academic honor societies. His interests include marketing, finance, real estate, the outdoor industry, the hospitality industry and not-for-profit humanitarian and conservation organizations.
Both scholarship recipients attended the lunch, as well Dean Ed Grier and members of the Thalhimer family, including Harry Thalhimer and his wife Marcia.