Undergraduate students taking Marketing Principals and Management at Alverno College aren’t getting lectures or run-of-the-mill assignments. They’re working with local businesses to help them develop comprehensive marketing plans. Students receive real-world experience, and they come away with a robust piece for their portfolios. The businesses owners, often lacking any marketing expertise, are looking at their companies through fresh lenses and getting a step-by-step plan designed to get their businesses in front of potential clients.
“The students’ enthusiasm is off the charts,” said Stephanie Gregory, instructor for the class and outreach director for Alverno’s MBA program. “They’re realizing they can use their education to influence someone’s life and business, and they’re very passionate about it.” The idea for this innovative approach to the class was born nearly a year ago when faculty from the School of Business at Alverno met with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC). WWBIC identified a need that many of their clients have, and the faculty saw an opportunity for their students to help out, while at the same time getting a valuable hands-on learning experience. Last semester Gregory’s students worked with five area businesses: Camino, Coffee With a Conscience, Divine Scents, In Home Personal Care Services and Tu Casa. In Home Personal Care owner Natassah Love had a goal of adding two new clients, and she added five.
This semester students are working with four local businesses: Retro Café, Dances With Dogs, House of Fashion and Bobby Drake. The process begins with a meeting between owners and the students to talk about the challenges facing each organization. Students then do a SWOT analysis (a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and make their initial recommendations. Two businesses are changing their names, and one has already totally revamped its website, all based on the student recommendations. “Their ideas about changing the website, fun ideas for each day, and stickers for the cafe have increased my traffic flow both on my website and in-store,” said Aalia Scott, owner of Retro Café. “Since these have been implemented, our café is on top of search criteria on Google.”
Jordan Mackin, an international student from Northern Ireland, is loving the chance to work with business owners. “My home university is grounded more in academic theory and research as opposed to working directly with companies,” she said. “Getting the chance to collaborate with business owners is incredibly fulfilling and an opportunity which I wouldn’t get at my university back home.”
By mid-semester, marketing plans are taking shape, business owners are seeing results and the students are excited to see how the business owners are responding. By the time the semester wraps up in mid-May, the small businesses will have complete marketing plans that they can use, and the students will have a greater appreciation of what marketing strategy is and the value it brings to an organization.
The class will continue to be offered for the foreseeable future, and there are plans to expand it into the college’s degree completion program. At the beginning of this semester, WWBIC had over 30 businesses on a waiting list. Alverno College, in particular the School of Business, and WWBIC have a long-standing partnership, dedicated to providing an immersive education for students, while creating widespread value to the community. Businesses interested in teaming up with Alverno students should contact WWBIC at 414-263-5450.
About Alverno College
Alverno College, a four-year independent, Catholic, liberal arts college for women, exists to promote the personal and professional development of its students. The college has earned accolades and respect internationally for its highly effective ability-based, assessment-as-learning approach to education, and has consulted with three U.S. presidential administrations on accountability and outcomes in higher education. For the last seven years, Alverno College has been ranked one of the top five schools in the Midwest doing “the best job of educating undergrads” by U.S. News & World Report. Educators from throughout the world visit Alverno to learn about its proven, student-centered teaching methods.
Alverno offers more than 60 major areas of study, including graduate programs in education, nursing, community psychology and business that are open to women and men. For more information about Alverno, visit www.alverno.edu or call 414-382-6100.