What do you think, Professor?

Interviews are great for capturing another perspective (and providing great content for this blog).

For the inaugural New Breed of Advertisers interview, I’d like to introduce you to Scott K. Powell.

Scott is Assistant Professor of Business at Grove City College. This is his 18th year at the College, having served as Assistant to the President for 14 of those years. He is now a full-time faculty member teaching marketing, consumer behavior, advertising and marketing research courses. He also oversees the admissions marketing efforts of the College. Prof. Powell is very happily married and has two young daughters. He is striving to be the teacher, husband, father and Christian witness that God desires him to be.

I’ve been a visiting speaker in Scott's Consumer Behavior class for the past few years and I can say two things: 1) He’s good at what he does and 2) the students love him.


NBoA: Some people have trouble seeing advertising as a redeemable field of study. At least, they view it as a less viable "calling" than, say, medicine or engineering or youth ministry. Is this a valid concern, and how would you respond to them?

Scott: I understand their concern and believe that much of it is valid. Every profession (even pastoral ministry) is subject to misuse, and advertising certainly has its share of questionable practitioners. Much of the advertising with which we are bombarded is inappropriate in terms of product, presentation or both. While I am a critic of advertising’s excesses (e.g., appealing to base instincts, encouraging materialism), it is my personal and professional opinion that there are many legitimate uses of advertising. For example, I believe that Grove City College is a great school and that students who enroll here will benefit from doing so. Unless we advertise the College, though, many students will never learn about us. The same is true about many other organizations and products. If you have a helpful product that is presented honestly and fairly, advertising is a good thing.

NBoA: Can you name a specific way that faith has guided your teaching on this subject?

Scott: I continually seek God’s wisdom and guidance in my profession. My daily prayer is, “Lord, you have given me a platform (the classroom), now give me the wisdom and words to challenge both myself and my students to be salt and light in our industry.” I am firmly convinced that God has a plan for me as a marketing professor, and am currently doing preliminary research for my dissertation by exploring questions such as, “What does it mean to be a Christian and a marketer?” and “What is the proper role of marketing?” While there are no “quick and easy” answers to these questions, I pray about and ponder them daily.

NBoA: What do you find challenging as a marketing professor at this point in history?

Scott: Helping students navigate through a world that is rarely black and white is a challenge that I take very seriously. My courses attempt to help students evaluate both themselves and marketing from a Christian perspective: “What, exactly, is a ‘helpful’ product?” “How can I promote it ‘fairly’?” “Is marketing this product a good use of my gifts and talents?” These are issues with which we wrestle.

NBoA: Can you share a former student story that delights you and makes you glad you are a teacher in this field?

Scott: I am very pleased that many of my former students keep in touch with me. In the past few months I have had several of them contact me just to say that I was a Christian role model for them and that my courses helped them see marketing in a different (biblical) light. Feedback like that is simultaneously humbling and fulfilling. God has given me the opportunity to get to know hundreds of students each year. May they see me, and love Him.

NBoA: Imagine that a college senior is reading this blog post. What advice would you offer?

Scott: Marketing is a field that truly needs the influence of Christian professionals. You CAN be both a Christian and a marketer.

NBoA: Last question, Scott. What is your favorite TV commercial, print ad, or ad campaign?

Scott: On the lighter side, one of my more recent favorites is the “My talking stain” campaign for Tide-To-Go stain remover. The product meets a need (somehow I always manage to get stains on my clothes), it actually works (I have one in the glove compartment of my car) and it presents a believable (except for the stain actually talking, of course!) message via inoffensive humor:


Thanks for your time and thoughtfulness, Scott. I’d love to have you back again to tell us more about your dissertation. Until then, press on in your work for the Kingdom!

Readers, your comments about this interview are welcomed here, but you can also contact Professor Powell at skpowell@gcc.edu, or learn more about Grove City College at www.gcc.edu/ad.

I'll be away from my desk till July 11th, so talk amongst yourselves. Happy 4th!


Anonymous,  July 4, 2008 at 12:11 PM  

Instead of asking the professor what he/she thinks, we must understand how students think. See the new book on amazon.com: "Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better".

Sam Van Eman July 9, 2008 at 12:48 PM  

Anonymous, I think both are required. Certainly every speaker/teacher will improve their success by knowing (and appropriately attending to) his or her audience, but the professor's own pedagogy and beliefs are essential too.

Thanks for thinking of the students.

Anonymous,  July 13, 2008 at 4:24 PM  

Thanks for sharing this interview.

Sam Van Eman July 14, 2008 at 11:51 AM  

You're welcome. I look forward to doing more interviews like this in the future.

Zach H.,  December 17, 2009 at 3:32 PM  

I've been priveleged to sit in Professor Powell's classroom for three of my four years at Grove City College. I've also sat in on a few presentations by the blogger himself.

I can attest to Prof. Powell's affinity for moral and ethical marketing practices, as well as his commitment to industry excellence and his students. He has prepared many fine marketers, and challenged them to constantly look at their future careers through a Christian worldview.

I have recently started a career as a sales professional, and of all the notebooks and texts which survived the move from "college life" to the "real world," I find myself returning to Scott Powell's captivating analysis of marketing.

Thank you Professor Powell... excuse me... Dr. Powell.

Sam Van Eman December 17, 2009 at 4:38 PM  

Congratulations on the new job, Zach. That's good news.

And I'm not surprised that you continue to find inspiration from such a good professor. He really has been an intellectual and spiritual blessing to his students.

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