For 20 years before coming to Appalachian State University, Thomas Mueller had a successful career in advertising. He owned a promotions and publicity company that subcontracted to Wrangler, ProRodeo, Supercross and NASCAR. He was the marketing manager for a $600 million manufacturer and served as executive director of professional competition for the American Motorcyclist Association and president of Sport Management Inc.
Then, in 2002, Mueller decided to pursue his Master of Business Administration at Otterbein University. During his exit interview three years later, he was told he should be an academic. So, in 2006 he decided to switch gears and pursue his Ph.D. at University of Florida.
“It was a good time in life. I came from sports and entertainment industry and I was burnt out,” Mueller said. “It was a good chance to give back. If there is anything I can do, it’s prepare students by telling them what’s really going to happen. Advertising is a tough business, tough and fast-paced.”
After completing his doctorate in three years, he took a job as an assistant professor in Appalachian’s Department of Communication and has been teaching students through his industry experience ever since.
“You can’t teach until you do,” Mueller said. “Some people can pontificate about the industry but never work in it. I want to take my applications and learn how I do things because students should be aware of it themselves.”
Mueller keeps his classes current with industry developments, and he said it is important to teach students how to capitalize on networking opportunities, including LinkedIn.
“The more I did it on my own, the more knowledge I have to explain to a student why this could be the key to their success,” Mueller said. “That’s why I like to learn alongside them too.”