The Spurrier Media Scholarship

With experience at three powerhouse agencies, Manisha Bhatia set her sights on pursuing a master’s-level degree in advertising. She made a list of possible universities and spoke to her friends about where to study.

“You often hear of the big schools,” she explained.

When a colleague asked if she’d considered Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter, she visited the website, ignored her previous list and applied. Today, she is a second-year student in the Brandcenter’s communications strategy track and the recipient of a Spurrier Media Scholarship.

“The annual $5,000 Spurrier Media Scholarship demonstrates a level of support that is unprecedented for a small business in the advertising and media industry,” said Caley Cantrell, a communications strategy professor at the Brandcenter. “Four of our students have received a huge financial boost to help launch their careers. They are very lucky!”

The Spurrier Media Group, a Richmond-based agency specializing in merging the advertising industry's media and creative functions, established the scholarship in 2008 through a $20,000 pledge. Founder Donna Spurrier is an industry veteran and former Brandcenter professor who has seen many students face financial struggles while pursuing their dreams.

“It’s very important to me to have found a way to be impactful,” she said. “To be able to share with students who are just getting their feet wet in this industry is a privilege.”

Spurrier and her team held a reception where Bhatia, who received her B.S. in business and marketing from the University at Buffalo in New York, had the opportunity to talk shop and get to know her new mentor.

“For a nonprofit or a profitable brand, messaging can create meaning in people’s lives,” Bhatia said. “Donna knows exactly how to do that. We share a similar passion. At the Brandcenter, we look for ways to bring meaning to a consumer’s life rather than convince them to buy something. Donna assured me that this happens in the real world!”

The two discussed the value of working on cause-related advertising efforts as well as working with sexy brands.

“A lot of Spurrier’s work with larger clients like the Veterans Affairs and the Federal Emergency Management Agency involves critical issues such as overcoming homelessness,” Spurrier said. “There’s just as much need in the industry for smart minds that go into more cause-related work.”

Bhatia hopes to contribute to society through meaningful work and was inspired by the meeting. She was also appreciative of the company’s generosity.

“When you are successful, it’s about giving back and that’s what the Spurrier Media Group is doing — giving students opportunities to think about giving back. It’s such an honor to have received this scholarship,” she said.

Spurrier hopes others will give students opportunities to pursue their dreams without financial hardship.

“The Brandcenter is the premier advertising master’s program in the country,” she said. “I’m hitched to that wagon because I believe in what I do as a professional, and I believe in what they’re doing. The Brandcenter is part of the fabric of VCU and Richmond. I’m thrilled to be involved.”

To learn more about the Brandcenter, contact Hawley Smyth (B.F.A. ’05), executive administrative assistant, at (804) 827-8868 or