As chair of Newhouse's advertising department from 2007-2023, James Tsao built the department into a distinctive brand, fostering relationships with alumni and with top advertising agencies who routinely recruit students. He also oversaw a curriculum overhaul and the establishment of the Eric Mower Advertising Forum, which brings an impressive array of high-profile advertising professionals to campus.
Tsao emphasized a collaborative, hands-on teaching approach, encouraging students to find solutions for brands facing real marketplace challenges.
During his tenure, the student-run advertising agency The NewHouse won the 2009 National Student Advertising Competition, the 2009 General Motors GMandU Marketing Challenge and the 2010 American Honda's Media Challenge for Honda's CR-Z sport hybrid, supervised by professors Ed Russell and Kevin O'Neill.
His research has been presented at national and international conferences, including the American Academy of Advertising; the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication; the International Communication Association; and others. His doctoral dissertation received the Top Paper Award in the Health Communication division of the ICA conference. A study he co-authored on teenagers’ trust of advertising was awarded as a top three paper by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).
He has published in leading academic journals, including the Journal of Advertising Research; Journalism and Mass Communication Educator; Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly; and Atlantic Journal of Communication.
Tsao won a number of research grants, from the Stanford University Summer Visiting Research Fellowship; the Center for International Business Education and Research of University of Wisconsin-Madison; the Wisconsin International Outreach Consortium; the University of Wisconsin System's Race and Ethnicity Program; Wisconsin Community Papers; and the Record Industry Association of America.
Prior to joining the Newhouse School, he was the chair of the journalism department at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where he was an AEJMC Journalism Diversity Fellow and a UW-Oshkosh Teaching Scholar. The program successfully passed ACEJMC accreditation under his leadership.
Early in his career, he was selected as a visiting professor at Lintas: Campbell-Ewald advertising agency by the Advertising Educational Foundation. He was the United Daily News Forum Visiting Scholar and taught advertising at National Chengchi University at Taipei. In addition, he was chosen to attend the Very Important Professor (VIP) seminar by the Promotional Products Association International; Freedom Forum Seminar for Advertising Teachers; Yellow Pages Educators’ Seminar; and Direct Marketing Professors’ Institute.