Marketing professor, business-owner and mentor are just a few of the hats that Bill Bergman wears. With his signature classes, sarcastic demeanor and loud southern accent, he can often be heard from his classroom across the business school.
Bergman has been teaching at University of Richmond for the past four years in addition to being the president and CEO of The Bergman Group, a Richmond-based advertising agency. He is also known for being a great friend and mentor to students, whether that means helping them with internships or meeting them at The Cellar for a drink.
“The college experience is just something you never forget,” Bergman said. “I can tell you every class I took and every professor I had. I view it as a very important time in people’s lives, and I want to influence it in a positive way for my students.”
After working in several advertising jobs, Bergman started The Bergman Group in 1995 in New York City and then opened his Richmond office when he relocated.
He never saw himself becoming a teacher, but started teaching advertising at Virginia Commonwealth University when a client asked for help.
“At first when my client called me I said no way am I teaching,” Bergman said. “But she kept asking, so I decided I would just teach one course because it couldn’t be that awful.”
After four years as an adjunct professor at VCU, he switched to teaching principles of marketing at Richmond. He started out with just one course and now teaches multiple sections and courses each semester.
“I like being in the classroom a lot and I find it tons of fun,” Bergman said. “The students vary a lot by year and are dramatically different, so it’s always changing.”
Bergman’s untraditional teaching ways, like walking around the entire classroom and incorporating social media into lessons, make him a favorite among students. He is even known for posting photos of his students on Instagram capturing them “working hard or hardly working” in class.
Senior Peter Acquafredda had Bergman for his principles of marketing course and still stays in touch as he pursues an accounting major.
“Professor Bergman has a sense of humor and is willing to joke around in and out of class,” Acquafredda said. “He cares less about the bureaucracy of academia and more about helping the students get real world experience.”
Bergman makes it a point to be available to students and is always willing to offer them help outside of the classroom. He even describes himself as a bit of a career coach in how he relates his lessons to the real world.
“The most rewarding thing is when I see the students sweating it out in school and then doing great things and competing nationally in the real world,” Bergman said.
Senior Callie Reis works as a teaching assistant for Bergman and helps with his principles of marketing courses.
“He’s different because he is super relatable and makes himself available to his students,” Reis said. “He’s interested about the lives of his students and it isn’t rare to see him around the business school chatting it up with one of his old students.”
Bergman not only gives students advice about getting internships, but many times he gives them the opportunity to intern at his company, The Bergman Group.
“If a student is interested in advertising and digital design, and they are actually a hard worker, then I figure what the heck let’s give this a try,” Bergman said. “I’ve hired a lot of student interns over the years and they have all been really great.”
Bergman’s ability to go above and beyond the typical classroom experience resonates with his colleagues, too. Professor Jeffrey Carlson has worked with Bergman in the marketing department at Richmond for the past four years and considers him a friend.
"Professor Bergman can easily relate to and is empathetic with all faculty and students,” Carlson said. “He is also genuinely interested in helping others, no matter how big or small the problem."
Contact reporter Lauren Gill at firstname.lastname@example.org