WMU digital marketing professor wins national teaching award by being 'R.E.A.L.' in the classroom

Contact: Stacey Anderson

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Scott Cowley, associate professor of marketing and director of the digital marketing and eCommerce program at Western Michigan University, won the 2022 Marketing Management Association’s Master Teaching Competition, which recognizes the organization’s outstanding marketing educator of the year. Competition finalists presented their portfolio and teaching impact to judges at the organization’s Fall Educators Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

“This award is really special to me, since I have a lot of respect for the past winners who have inspired my own approaches to education,” says Cowley. “I’ve always wanted to be a professor who brings their best work to the classroom so that students can do their best work. And it’s really the innovative mindset and achievements of my students that shined through in what I presented. I’m lucky to have a role in what they do.”

Cowley’s winning presentation focused, in part, on his approach to providing hands-on experiences in digital marketing that prepare students for their careers. In fact, Cowley highlighted how he uses R.E.A.L. projects—an acronym that guides his approach in the classroom.

  • Relevance: This principle is key to course structure but also to the value Cowley gives his students outside of the classroom. He incorporates news stories, current marketing scenarios and transferrable skills into his courses, blending relevance with enjoyment so students find multiple areas of marketing they are excited about. One way Cowley measures his performance as an educator is by the number of students he can help make progress toward their goals.
  • Entrepreneurship: When Cowley creates course projects, he seeks out opportunities to guide students in the creation of their own assets, from graphics to videos to personal websites. This process leads to ownership of the creative process with many students continuing to create content independently. Viewing his curriculum as his own entrepreneurial enterprise, Cowley is always refining his courses, looking for ways to elevate quality and help students find value from the material. His ultimate goal is to unlock students’ self-efficacy so they can pursue their goals with confidence.
  • Audience: Never subscribing to the idea that student projects are ultimately for an audience of one (the professor), Cowley creates an environment where student work is evaluated by outside audiences. This ranges from engaging with campus organizations for influencer marketing, to assisting brands with TikTok content, to website consulting for local organizations. Students take pride in the quality of their work, as they gain authentic feedback and real-world experience. Cowley considers his audience when teaching too, prioritizing his students while also thinking about how other marketing educators might benefit. As a result, his innovative teaching has led to over 100 university professors using projects he has developed, such as a project that teaches social media and content through BuzzFeed, a project about search engine optimization using YouTube and others.
  • Leverage: The final hallmark of Cowley’s teaching philosophy is the leverage he applies in order to help students get as much value as possible. His rigorous courses include realistic, integrative and impactful projects like case competitions and digital advertising campaigns so that when students are done with the course, they have a collection of experiences to add to their resumes that they are able to discuss during the hiring process.

Cowley’s teaching philosophy creates an environment where students find value in his courses and have a strong personal relationship with him as he strategically guides them to success. His approach represents a core strength of the Haworth College of Business—instruction that integrates relevant experiential learning in all programs.

“Dr. Scott Cowley has been a mentor to me in the digital marketing and eCommerce program,” says Phoebe Rohrer, one of Cowley's students majoring in digital marketing and eCommerce. “My resume looks as if I have been in the digital marketing industry for two years as a professional because of all the hands-on experience he has provided to students. I feel very supported, and he has helped me connect with professionals in the industry.”

Learn more about the digital marketing and eCommerce program at WMU Haworth.

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