Stutts receives praise for student success in the classroom, competition and beyond By M. Yvonne Taylor, University Marketing
“Being around young people is where it’s at,” explains an enthusiastic Mary Ann Stutts. “Students challenge me. I teach these kids, and then I learn even more from them.
“And it keeps you young,” she adds.
The Texas State professor of marketing has used her passion for teaching and keen interest in advertising to help lead numerous student teams to the American Advertising Federation’s (AAF’s) National Student Advertising Competition. Her teams have nine first-place district finishes, 13 national appearances and two national titles.
Her work also has led to her latest honor. In May 2009, Stutts, who has led teams to AAF competition since 1980, was named AAF’s 2009 Distinguished Advertising Educator. The annual award honors the best advertising educators in the nation.
Successful Style Stutt’s AAF competition class is multidisciplinary. It includes marketing, advertising, public relations and commercial design majors and a co-advisor from mass communications. This approach is part of the teams’ success.
In preparation for competition, students collaborate in Stutts’ class to develop a marketing and advertising campaign for a product or service. Although Stutts directs the students, facilitating and guiding the process, she allows them to take the reins and exercise creative control. They then present the campaign at competition.
Handing over control to students is not without its risks and challenges, the professor says. “There have been times I’ve expressed hesitation at what students come up with, thinking its too risqué, for example, or that parents aren’t going to like it,” she explains.
But she allows her students to discuss their opinions and decisions with her — and pushes back when necessary.
“It used to drive me up the wall that a 20-year-old might not see something that I saw,” she admits. “And then many times I went away and thought about [what they had to say] for a couple of hours and decided, you know, they’re right, I may not be target audience for a particular product or service.”
She smiles before adding, “You just have to know when to reel ’em back in and go, ‘Nah, that really won’t work.’ And explain why it won’t work.”
Personal Approach Stutts’ willingness to listen to her students and hash out ideas with them develops what she believes are crucial critical thinking skills and confidence in her students. And her students believe that style of instruction fuels their success.
Take Andrew Hogan, for example. Hogan was part of the teams that went to conference under Stutts’ guidance in 2006 and 2009. The new business development consultant at T-3 advertising agency credits her with both his team’s success and his career success.
“As far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t get enough credit,” says Hogan. “I’ve had many professors at Texas State who were wonderful, but she was the best. It wasn’t just a one-way communication with her. She worked with you to develop your ideas. She asked for student input. And she did that better than any other professor.”
And Hogan says Stutts’ instruction style has benefited him now that he’s employed in the advertising industry. “Her approach to teaching the class has helped me be successful in my job. At work, I do exactly what I did in her class, but on a larger scale,” the consultant says. “And within two weeks!”
He notes that his communication with superiors, in particular, is based on what he learned with his peers and his interaction with Stutts in the classroom. “Although I’m the low man on the totem pole, I am comfortable sharing my ideas with higher-ups and find that my input is valued,” he says.
Reflecting on his time as a student of Stutts, Hogan adds, “I just assumed that people always listened and were very concerned about you, based on my interaction with her.” And though he has learned that her personal interest and approach isn’t always found in the “real world,” he appreciates what it gave him. “Her work preparing us for AAF competition prepared me for job interviews as well as answering hard questions, which I have to do every day in my job.”
The Extra Mile Vicki West, a senior lecturer in the Department of Marketing, says Stutts’ work helping students face the challenges of AAF competition and job hunting is the reason she’s an unusual educator.
“What absolutely sets her apart from other teachers,” West says, “is the fact that she personally tries to help the students start their careers. She takes on this added responsibility because she cares about the students’ futures, not because she wants to win an award.”
And it’s true.
Stutts strongly believes that Texas State’s participation at the AAF competitions alone — win or no win — is a boon for students and their future job searches. “The AAF competition is a great springboard because industry people are looking for those top-notch students,” she explains. “Many people in industry have heard of the competition and have recruited at nationals and district.
“No matter where you place or what school you are from,” she explains, “a student participating in AAF competition has learned so much more than the typical student,” and it gives the student “that extra edge on the résumé.”
But she adds, Texas State students “have a strong motivation to excel and they’re good at what they do.”
And judging by her latest accolade, so is she.
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Mary Ann Stutts file
Hometown: Sinton, Texas
Education: BBA, University of Texas; MBA, PhD, Texas A&M University.
Currently: Professor, Department of Marketing
They said it: Says West, “What makes Dr. Stutts such a gifted, special teacher is her absolute dedication to the students’ learning experience. She richly deserves any accolades or award she has received.”
She said it: On teaching: “I’m lucky that in my whole teaching career I’ve gotten to teach the fun part of marketing, and there’s always something new happening in advertising that you can show and the students love it.”
On mentors: “Most everybody has a mentor in their life, and they look at that person and say, I think I’d like to do what that person does. And mine was in grad school in the MBA program. I had a dynamic professor and watched her and thought that what she did was cool. I could have stopped at the MBA and gone into industry, which I didn’t do because I thought what she did was interesting, fun, cool.”
On technology: What people used to have to do by hand — layout and design— can easily be done with a computer program now. Technology has enhanced advertising. But the basics haven’t changed. A good idea is a good idea and it was in 1930 and is in 2010. And that generally comes out of somebody’s head.”
Surprises: She hasn’t watched a single episode of “Mad Men” yet, but “it’s on my list of things to do!”
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