Published: April 13, 2021 By

Harsha Gangadharbatla, associate professor of advertising at the College of Media, Communication and Information, is the newest president of the American Academy of Advertising (AAA) and the first University of Colorado Boulder professor to earn the title. 

Established in 1958, AAA’s mission is to provide a platform for its academic and professional members to exchange ideas that are relevant to the field of advertising. The organization has over 600 advertising scholars and professionals dedicated to advancing advertising knowledge and education globally.

"Harsha’s technical and international background bring a unique and needed perspective to advertising and we’re delighted that he will represent us at the national level,” said Lori Bergen, Founding Dean of CMCI. “His strengths in research, teaching and administration have been a strong asset for our college and I know that AAA will benefit from his exceptional leadership.”

Gangadharbatla’s term as president will last one year, until March 25, 2022, and then he will continue to serve on the executive board until March 2023. He is AAA’s 58th president. 

"It is an honor and a privilege to serve as the AAA organization's first Indian-born president,” he said. “It is a testament to the forward-thinking and progressive nature of the academy to nominate and elect a person of color, born in a third world country to lead the organization.”

One of the organization’s many goals is to promote a formal and professional education for the next generation of advertising professionals.  

"Having Professor Harsha as the president of AAA from our program is a moment of pride for APRD and CU students,” said Saima Kazmi, a doctoral student in the Media Research and Practice department. “It is likely to create higher visibility for our program, and generate more opportunities for research and interest from future students.”  

Gangadharbatla has taught at the university level for over 15 years and served in numerous advertising organization leadership positions.  Over the course of his involvement with AAA, he has served as the vice president of AAA, and chaired both the Research Committee and the International Advertising Education Committee—now, Global and Multicultural Committee. 

As the founding chair for CMCI’s largest department, Gangadharbatla has recruited top instructors for students and helped create innovative courses and workshops, such as a weekend workshop in Programmatic Advertising. He currently teaches both undergraduate and graduate level courses for advertising students in CMCI. 

His research interests are at the intersections of technology, business and communication. Gangadharbatla also researches new and emerging technologies, the social effects of advertising and environmental communication. 

Before entering advertising, he was an electrical engineer and worked for Cognizant Technology Solutions as a programmer writing code. He holds a Bachelor’s of Engineering from MNNIT in India, a Master’s of Arts in advertising from Michigan State University, and a doctorate in advertising from the University of Texas at Austin. 

"The organization's annual conference in 2001 was my very first academic conference as a master's student at Michigan State, so being elected its president exactly 20 years later is something special,” Gangadharbatla said. “In many ways, AAA is not only my academic and professional home, but I also consider its members my extended family."

Gangadharbatla succeeds Eric Haley, a University of Tennessee advertising professor, as AAA president.