Since 1999, Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications has been home to Scott Hamula, an associate professor of advertising whose career has brought him from young aspirations to a recent winner of prestigious awards both for himself and Ithaca College.
Hamula, a Trumansburg resident, is currently chair of the Department of Strategic Communication at IC. As Hamula tells it, he showed interest in advertising early on.
When he was 10 years old, he won a radio contest, which ignited a love of radio and, later, an interest in the business side of radio. This soon led to an interest in advertising in all its forms, which is what he studied in college.
“It’s a series of changes and growth,” Hamula said about his life. “Going from 10 years old to where I am now – 56 – it really has a zigzag path, but it does go in a direct direction that someone would understand.”
In the beginning of his professional life, Hamula worked as an advertising consultant full time, later adding part-time adjunct professorship at three separate community colleges, according to the American Advertising Federation (AAF).
His full-time career as a professor began at Keuka College in 1994, and in 1999, Hamula left Keuka to teach at Ithaca. He said he made the switch because IC allowed him to focus more on advertising, which had been his focus for decades.
In the 20 years since his start at IC, Hamula said his teaching style has changed considerably. His expectations started rather low, uncertain of what students were capable of and how they learn best. After a few years, however, he realized that IC students are passionate and dedicated, and he worked to make his classes as engaging, interactive and stimulating as possible to foster student growth.
“I love to open students’ eyes to the world of advertising in a way that they probably have not looked at it before … to critically analyze the messages they’re receiving,” Hamula said.
That strategy has served him well in teaching IC’s Ad Lab senior capstone campaign, a course in the Integrated Marketing Communications major that puts students in the AAF National Student Advertising Competition.
This campaign is a “premier college advertising competition that provides college students the real-world experience of creating a strategic advertising/marketing/media campaign for a corporate client,” according to the Ithaca College website. This year’s client was Wienerschnitzel.
In June of this year, Hamula’s Ad Lab class won the competition (which he called the “World Series of Advertising”), making it the first time an Ithaca team has won since 1993. Hamula credits the win to some on-the-fly decision-making by the IC students that showed true proficiency in the subject.
“It was really the hard work and the smart work,” Hamula said. “There’s a lot of long nights, but there’s a lot of smart decisions being made.”
Hamula said he was impressed with the work the students accomplished and enjoyed helping them to win such an achievement. It is a national award, so being able to help Ithaca achieve it for the first time in his tenure was validating, he said.
“They’re so talented and driven that it’s always inspirational to do their very best and put their best foot forward, and when they’re recognized in this way, it just makes it all the better,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to work with the students to bring that award back to Ithaca.”
At the ADMERICA Conference in Hollywood, Florida, where IC students were presented with their award, Hamula was also awarded the 2019 Distinguished Advertising Educator Award. This award recognizes the best advertising professors in the country.
“Nominees for this award must demonstrate excellence in teaching and student advisement, a record of scholarly research, publications and professional experience, as well as active involvement in the advertising industry and its organizations, academia and the community,” according to the AAF.
Winning such an award for the first time in his career was a surprise and an incredible honor, Hamula said.
“It was very humbling,” he said. “I’m very familiar with several faculty members that have won it in the past, and I’ve always held them in very high esteem, so to be placed in that company, it’s humbling, it’s exciting, and I’m very grateful to be recognized in that way.”
Winning these and other awards has ultimately proven to Hamula that Ithaca College is a truly unique place to work and learn, especially the Park School. He said the communications school combines so many interests – radio, advertising, broadcasting, public relations, etc. – while keeping a cohesive mission and mindset. Everyone works together in the same building, collaborates and produces great work, he said, which is why he likes working there.
“We have great students here, and the students I work with are very passionate about the subject matter,” Hamula said. “There’s an energy in the hallways, that synergy that happens when you have different people with different aspirations all working in the same environment.”
Hamula plans to continue teaching at Ithaca and leading the Ad Lab course for many years moving forward, he said. Next year’s client for Ad Lab is Adobe, and he looks forward to helping another round of students compete and possibly win yet again.
In addition to his teaching, Hamula does his own research and scholarship activity on the National Advertising Review Board to help regulate the advertising industry and improve the system as a whole.
What he finds the most rewarding, though, is working with students to inspire them in the same way he was to influence the advertising industry in new and innovative ways, he said.
“I gauge my success by the success of my students, so if I look at my alumni and the amazing things that we’re doing, I think we’re doing a pretty good job here,” he said.
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