Seventeen years after graduating from Virginia Tech, Matt Arden accepted an invitation to serve on the Marketing Industry Mentoring Board of the Pamplin College of Business.
For the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences graduate, joining the board in 2016 represented an opportunity to share his professional expertise across a broader swath of the university’s student body — and he didn’t stop there.
Arden has since found mentoring opportunities that have continued to inspire him to combine his career experiences with his passion for helping his fellow Hokies.
“Joining the mentoring board has been the most effective way to give back, interact with students, and help in the way we interface with students from a mentoring perspective,” Arden said. “Between the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Pamplin, and the mentoring board, I find myself back on campus several times a year. My primary focus has been speaking with students about what lies beyond college.”
As he looks back on his years at Virginia Tech, where he earned a degree in interdisciplinary studies, Arden admits he was not a stellar student.
“I loved my experience at Virginia Tech, and there were a couple of professors who turned my head around, but I was one of those ‘C’ students who had a ton of ability and a ton to offer and yet wasn’t academically inspired,” Arden said. “That’s no fault of the university’s; I just wasn’t a great student.
“I was lucky, though, to find mentors who were good to me and helped me navigate when I was having trouble academically. I know that’s hard to do. You have to have a bit of gumption to do it — and not every student has that.”
Arden’s own experience taught him the value of professors of practice, whose achievements in the field provide students with important links to the professional world. He cited especially Donna Wertalik, an associate professor of practice in marketing in the Pamplin College of Business, and Bill Roth, a former and longtime Voice of the Hokies, who now serves as a professor of practice in multimedia journalism in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
In recent years, Wertalik and Roth have both invited Arden back to Blacksburg to speak to their students and share his tips as a three-time Emmy Award winner.
After graduating in 1999, Arden stayed in Blacksburg as the first video producer for hokiesports.com. He then moved to Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta, where he spent 11 years and became a founding member of the award-winning Creative Services Sports Unit.
Before taking on his current role as senior vice president of brand creative, programming, and innovation for Screenvision Media, Arden worked for Maggievision Productions in New York City, producing content for ESPN, the ESPYs, and NFL Honors.
“As someone who wasn’t the best student but was pretty successful once I got outside of college, I felt I could help students who might need a little push or who show promise but are struggling academically,” Arden said. “Students feel a lot of pressure, whether it’s self-inflicted or through educational practices, and I think much of that pressure can be alleviated by talking to people on the outside who might have tips for helping them navigate the real world after graduation.”
In one of Arden’s recent projects, he sparked collaboration between one of his clients — Citizen Watch — and Virginia Tech students. This spring, Arden produced a branded storytelling campaign that highlighted several creative Hokies.
“I’m always interested in bringing unique stories that showcase sides of Virginia Tech that people aren’t as aware of,” Arden said. “People know the university’s football and engineering strengths, but they may not know that it’s also a place where creative students have been able to thrive.”
The students — Hollis Brown, a marketing management major in the Pamplin College of Business; Brendan Casey, a creative technologies major in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies; Ricky Lam, a multimedia journalism in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; and Micah Untiedt, a theater arts major in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences — each brought a different creative interest to the stage.
In turn, the students, all of whom graduated in May of this year, were able to learn firsthand from Arden and his production crew as they worked on the Citizen Watch project.
“I’m a big proponent of telling the right story at the right time,” Arden said. “I never want to force anything, and so what happened with the Citizen Watch project is that everything happened with the right timing for the brand.”
Arden had also created a Citizen Watch video shot in Blacksburg in 2017. That spot captured a visit to campus by actor and producer Greg Grunberg, who gave Virginia Tech students advice.
“Keeping writing; don’t stop writing,” Grunberg said. “You’re about to go into the real world. It’s daunting, but it’s really exciting.”
Featured in the video along with Grunberg were Daniel Mun, a 2016 graduate in management, and Sophia Okorn, a 2017 graduate in multimedia journalism.
“I always keep my mind open to unique and interesting storytelling possibilities,” said Arden. “And if I can bring that to Blacksburg, that will always be something I try to do.”
Written by Leslie McCrea, a 2016 Virginia Tech graduate in communication