Q and A with Steve Whiskeyman '09 on Teaching at His Alma Mater

Steve and Jill Whiskeyman teach a DigiCOM class

Husband and wife Steve and Jill Whiskeyman are spending the spring semester teaching their skills to current LVC students. Steve ’09 and Jill ’07 are teaching DCOM 301: Ad Agency, a course traditionally taught by Mat Samuel, associate professor of digital communications.

Here our Office of Advancement talks with Steve about returning to his alma mater where he met his wife to teach current students. You can also read more about the Whiskeymans’ time in the classroom and what students are learning in this feature story.

 

How does it feel to be on the teaching side of LVC? 

Jill and I are each surprised at how natural it feels to be at the helm of the classroom. Part of that, I’m sure, has to do with the fact that we sat just about 10 years ago where our students sit today. Since I graduated from LVC, some of the best mentors for me, personally, have been people who recently were where I am now, as far as career trajectory or professional status is concerned. In a way, I see teaching at LVC as an opportunity to pay the kind of mentorship I’ve received forward. 

I’m also thrilled to have the opportunity to challenge the kind of assumptions I had as an undergrad, and impart knowledge and skills that I didn’t have until years after graduation. My hope is that our students will have concluded spring semester feeling like they have an advantage over their peers in terms of the practical business applications of marketing, advertising, and digital communications, and an orientation that to succeed in business, learning must never stop.

 

Why did you choose your career and how did LVC prepare you for that field? 

I suppose the thing that draws us to the classroom is the same thing that draws us to one another—we both share an unquenchable thirst for learning and travel. We are serial studies of new subjects, and to succeed in the agency world, you must, must, must possess that quality. Simpatico’s [the couple’s Philadelphia-based advertising agency] clients are in all kinds of business stages, at super broad valuations, facing wide ranging and disparate business challenges. 

Sound familiar? In a way, it's the same stuff that a liberal arts undergrad deals with—you take a broad range of subjects that expect a certain degree of mastery and aptitude. You do what you need to do and go where you need to go to meet requirements and exceed expectations. So it is in our day-to-day life. One moment we’re researching the implications of new regulations in the European Union on global clinical trials. The next we’re headed out-of-state to present our findings, or to Chicago for a trade show, or the next town over to meet a brand new prospective client. 

 

Was there a specific class or professor that helped you on your career path? 

Jill and I, who both double majored in English and digital communications, each were fortunate enough to have Dr. Jeff Ritchie [chair and professor of digital communications] as an undergrad advisor. He’ll hate me for saying it, swear I’m embellishing, and deny it if you ask him, but the man is brilliant.

When I recommended him for tenure, I told a story about how, circa 2007, Jeff Ritchie stood in front of a digital communications class, held up a cell phone and declared, “THIS is where everything is going.” I, a cocky, self-taught programmer with video game development aspirations, scoffed at the notion. There was no way, I swore, that user experience on a pocket-size screen could emulate the visceral emotion enabled by larger screens. Then the iPhone happened. 

 

What do you hope to accomplish by teaching and mentoring current Dutchmen? 

I’m only a few weeks into the semester, and I need to say I’m floored by how much these kids know. I’m not sure whether that’s a function of their access to information compared to mine at their age, or an enhanced recruiting process on the part of admissions, or both, but the point is, these kids are smart. Way smarter than I was when I was sitting in their seat. The academic knowledge they possess is worlds away from the media narrative about milennials. My goal is to help them channel that theoretical knowledge into business-level and career-level confidence, as well as world-wariness, permanent open-mindedness, and most importantly, the wherewithal to use what they know to influence others and to build lifelong relationships.