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Students Gain Real-World Experience in Marketing Course

April 12, 2010

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UAlbany students standing in front of campus center SEFCU branch.

Project managers from an Integrated Marketing Communications course at UAlbany's School of Business. (Photo Lauren N. Johnson)

Understanding the financial needs of college students in today’s economic environment might seem like a daunting task for an established marketing firm, but for 23 students in Don Purdy’s Integrated Marketing Communications course, it is a real-world project. Their task is to craft a student-oriented marketing strategy for SEFCU, including analyzing the credit union’s current crop of products geared toward undergraduates, and assisting in the development of an advertising campaign.

"It is still a smaller scale than a real-life situation, but it is definitely better than reading a book," said Shanelle Campbell, a senior marketing and management major from Brooklyn in UAlbany's School of Business.  "We get to apply marketing concepts of product positioning and strategy as well as build and maintain good relationships that are beneficial to our cause." 

The students began by forming a communications agency called "Big Purple Marketing," before dividing into more focused departments: creative services, direct marketing, finance, media, production, public relations, research, and strategy. 

Overseeing the agency is senior Asaf Fabbi of Fairfax, Va. "It is the first time my major has come alive for me as well as an experience of real world meeting classroom," said Fabbi, who transferred to UAlbany from Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. "My role as an account manager is to gain the audience's attention, make sure reports are filed on time to pass off to clients, and update the client on progress made through the Big Purple Marketing campaign," Fabbi added. He told a short story of the class recently adapting to a change in the campus environment regarding distribution of surveys.

"Naturally, the environment has changed as far as an integrated marketing communications class being able to have surveys distributed to UAlbany students by professors. Now, there is a process where the professor must have the surveys approved by a committee that could take up to several months, whereas our project time is limited," said Fabbi. "Therefore, we had to cut out the middle man and pound the pavement ourselves to advertise for our client, SEFCU. In a classroom, a situation such as this would have been merely to do the assignment and receive a grade. Just as in the real world, we faced a real obstacle."

The Integrated Marketing Communications course was designed to provide students with hands-on experience in their field of study. By working with actual clients, students bridge the gap between industry and education. Every semester the class has a different client, whom the students work for over the entire term. 

"If there is a common thread among some of the projects, it is the target market of college students and the desire to raise awareness of the client among the target market," said Purdy, director of the Weekend MBA Program and an adjunct lecturer in the School of Business who has taught the class for more than 12 years.

Previous clients have included the FBI, Nissan, the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Navy, Citibank, the Weekend MBA Program, Vale Cemetery in Schenectady, and Honda. Students in Purdy’s other class this semester are working with Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady to promote the newly-acquired public access Open Stage Media.

"Working with Big Purple Marketing has been great. The team is both professional and enthusiastic. We look forward to implementing some of the ideas that are coming our way," said John DeCelle, SEFCU Chief Marketing Officer.

"Without exception, our clients have unquestionably been pleased by the work of my student agency members," said Purdy.

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Istvan Kecskes
UAlbany Faculty

For UAlbany linguist and teacher Istvan Kecskes, the world is his classroom.

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