The Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations (SRS) at the University of Texas (UT) appointed longtime agency executive and Texas native Lisa Bennett as executive director of The Lab, a new practice within the school, designed to provide students with practical experience in the advertising and marketing industry.
“I feel like I’ve been preparing for this role my entire life. I grew up in Austin, graduated from UT, learned from some of the best in the business, led work across a broad range of clients and mentored some truly incredible talent over the years,” Bennett said. “Our industry is going through massive change and is facing a multitude of challenges. Creating an entity designed to prepare students for the real world will be an important next stage of my career. The Lab will be designed to give SRS students the best possible chance of succeeding in what is an incredibly competitive and demanding environment.”
Ostensibly a program and student-run agency, Bennett brings voluminous experience to the role, starting at Leo Burnett, where she spent 14 years, ascending to evp, executive creative director. From there, she joined DDB Worldwide as managing partner and CCO of DDB West. Ten years into her tenure, she moved to a North America role. After DDB, Bennett spent time at two independent agencies, including TM Advertising in Dallas, which shut down last year.
“Lisa’s impressive track record and wealth of industry expertise will add tremendous value to the faculty and students of The Lab,” Jay Bernhardt, dean of The Moody College of Communication, said. “I’m confident that under her leadership we will build a highly unique and valuable resource for both students and clients.”
Bennett’s brand resume includes several iconic brands such as Delta Air Lines, Disney, Heinz, Intel, McAfee and McDonald’s. She’s also snapped up several prestigious awards from Cannes Lions, D&AD and Clio Awards, where she was inducted into its hall of fame.
Stan Richards—the iconic advertising figure who founded The Richards Group, and whose name adorns the program—praised the decision to hire Bennett, citing the school’s unique opportunity to give students more robust skills in a more real-world environment.
“She lived the agency life for a long time, and should be able to replicate what happens in any number of agencies around the country,” he said, also noting that the pandemic has changed the dynamics. “There’s a vitality and energy within an agency, partly because of the proximity of people to each other. We’re missing that badly right now, but [students] will get a feel for that and it will better prepare them for when they take on their first job.”
Deb Morrison, the Carolyn Silva Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising at the University of Oregon, taught Bennett when she was a UT professor starting in the late 80s.
“Lisa was amazing from the word ‘go,’” she said. “She’s talented and tenacious. At Leo Burnett, she brought a real sense of creativity to those teams and brought them back to a streak of winning awards, transforming clients.”
UT has remained a high-quality program, but adding The Lab is crucial to take it to the next level and become more relevant within the marketing ecosystem, according to Morrison.
“Having a student agency, and that kind of experiential learning is important,” she said. “It will be wonderful to watch Lisa pay attention to feisty startups and more innovative thinking, than just focusing on big agencies. The marketing world is changing, and she has all of the right tools and context to thrive.”