Students' projects might make real-life impact for independent school

February 08, 2010

Recently, several students in Penn State's College of Communications who worked on a group project for an advertising campaigns course made presentations to board members for an independent school in State College. Some of their ideas might be part of the school's overall development and marketing approach in the future.

Students in COMM 424 Advertising Campaigns, taught by Bob Baukus, a professor and head of the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, worked in four separate groups and put together advertising campaigns for the State College Friends School, an independent school for children in kindergarten to eighth grade that has existed in the community since 1980.

In order to complete the assignments, members of the groups visited the school and conducted market research before focusing on enrollment, recruitment and fundraising efforts for their projects.

"I was pleased with the quality of their work," Baukus said. "Each of the four groups really came up with strong plans."

In addition, each group of communications students worked with one MBA student from the Smeal College of Business on their plans.

When final presentations were made in class, two officials from the Friends School were asked to visit. They came away impressed as well -- so much so that they requested that full presentations be made before the school's entire board of trustees.

"We pulled two groups at random," Baukus said. "They were all strong, and the board did not have time to hear all the groups."

Still, Baukus shared the materials from every group with leaders of the school.

The two groups that made presentations to the board of trustees in January made an impact.

"All of their ideas were fresh and wonderful," said Beth Giles, director of development for the Friends School. "All of the groups were well prepared, and gave us a booklet about what they had done. They were impressive, professional presentations."

For the non-profit school, the ideas about their programs -- as seen by a fresh set of observers -- provided invaluable feedback.

"We have a small staff, and sometimes cannot afford to to the kinds of things they helped us with," Giles said. "Their market research was invaluable. The students conducted polling and because they were a third party, people were honest and we got important feedback."

While the project helped the Friends School, and some of the students' marketing and recruiting ideas could be implemented by the school, the project itself was a valuable real-life opportunity for the students.

"It was a great project for our students," Baukus said. "They took what they did in the classroom and made an impact. Their efforts went beyond campus and into the community. They helped some others, and they also learned a lot."

Baukus believes the Friends School might implement parts of some of the plans as they work ot gain more visibility for their program in State College. In a community with several school options, marketing plans are important. Even a few children can make a difference in terms of enrollment, and the business model for the school.

"The students brought us fresh perspectives and great creative ideas on how to present the strengths of the program to the families of State College," Giles said. "We hope to use some of these ideas in our marketing in the future."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 11, 2010