Penn State Executive Programs wins award for Auntie Anne's partnership

University Park, Pa. -- Chief Learning Officer Magazine, the leading publication in the workforce learning and development industry, has awarded Penn State Executive Programs with its highest provider partnership award for Penn State's executive education partnership with Auntie Anne's Inc.

Penn State Executive Programs won the magazine's Gold award for Excellence in Academic Partnerships, which "recognizes accredited academic learning providers that have partnered with an organization in the past year to teach several of its employees about a key business issue."

Each year, CLO magazine presents awards to learning industry leaders who have demonstrated excellence in the design and delivery of workforce learning and development programs. This year's awards were presented Sept. 28 at the Chief Learning Officer Symposium in Dana Point, Calif. Upon accepting the award, Maria Taylor, director of learning solutions for Penn State Executive Programs, said, "We were especially honored as the Gold Award was based on the measurable impact that our work had on Auntie Anne's business."

Auntie Anne's selected Penn State Executive Programs, the executive education division of the Smeal College of Business, in early 2009 to help the company determine its future strategy. With nearly 1,100 stores in 44 states and 21 countries, the hand-rolled soft pretzel franchisor had exceeded the goals of the strategic plan it established in 2006. Smeal faculty worked directly with Auntie Anne's executive leadership team to create a new vision for the company that was then shared with the next level of management and stakeholders in the franchise community.

Smeal faculty first interviewed each member of the Auntie Anne's executive team about the company's opportunities and challenges to paint a picture of its current state. Next, the Auntie Anne's team worked with the Smeal faculty to identify areas of growth based on the company's values, uniqueness and core competencies for success. The growth areas were whittled down to a collection of core strategic imperatives, and the team identified the organizational capabilities, operating systems, and talent required to achieve them. They also developed metrics to gauge the strategy’s performance. The executive team next engaged corporate employees, franchisees, consultants, partners, and suppliers to hone their strategies.

In September 2009, Smeal's Al Vicere, executive education professor of strategic leadership, joined Auntie Anne's Chairman and CEO Sam Beiler at the company's system-wide convention to present its new strategic vision. The following January, Smeal faculty members led a strategic planning workshop for Auntie Anne's leadership group of franchisees to discuss the benefits of the vision and how it can positively impact sales.

The Auntie Anne's-Smeal partnership helped the company’s leaders to create an enhanced environment that fostered integration of new skills, behavior change, and an immediate impact on business results. The partnership set forth a new strategic direction for the company to expand the brand, enhance the store experience for consumers, and provide continued value for all stakeholders.

About Penn State Executive Programs

Penn State Executive Programs, the executive education division of Penn State's Smeal College of Business, has been serving the development needs of the world's business leaders since 1954, providing both open-enrollment and custom programs. Nearly 42,000 executives from 43 different nations have participated in programs on topics ranging from strategic leadership to supply chain management. For more information, visit

About Auntie Anne's Inc.

Auntie Anne's, Inc., the world's largest franchisor of hand-rolled soft pretzels, is known for mixing, twisting, and baking pretzel products to golden brown perfection in full view of customers. With a variety of snack and meal options for people on-the-go, Auntie Anne's is a popular quick-service restaurant that can be found in shopping malls, airports, train stations, and colleges/universities. In 2009, Auntie Anne's set record sales of $356.8 million vs. $333.4 million in 2008. For more information, visit

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Last Updated January 09, 2015