Penn State Smeal introduces exciting changes to marketing curriculum

March 02, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As consumer habits constantly evolve, so too do the ways companies try to prevail upon those people to purchase or consume their products.

To better equip students to cope in this changing landscape, the Penn State Smeal College of Business Marketing Department is making several enhancements to its curriculum.

These changes — the introduction of a digital analytics practicum course and adding a marketing skills course — follow a trend. The Department of Marketing has been introducing more hands-on opportunities for students, many times interacting with and being mentored by industry professionals.

“Our curriculum changes are designed to give students very practical experience, thinking about campaigns that happen in the real world,” said Jennifer Chang Coupland, a clinical professor of marketing and Paiste Fellow in Teaching and Learning who chairs the undergraduate marketing curriculum committee.

“These courses will train students how to be nimble in the face of uncertain times.”

Coupland has been on the cutting edge of Smeal’s efforts to introduce more experiential learning opportunities to its students. Five years ago, she undertook teaching responsibilities for Marketing 497, Prime Practicum Course.

In Marketing 497, students have the opportunity to work with impactful consumer goods companies and ad agencies on current and real-world marketing projects and gain experience from both sides of the issue. The project-based class gives students an entire semester to analyze, ideate and transform their findings into a solution. That creative process is enhanced by weekly mentoring meetings with industry professionals.

Students have worked with companies such as Unilever, Johnson and Johnson, Reckitt Benckiser, Nestle, Moxie, Ogilvy, and Publicis Health Media. Those companies have adopted and implemented many of the ideas that the students developed.

Kelly Jackson, who graduated from the Penn State Bellisario College of Communications in 2014 with a degree in advertising and publications, is an account director with Ogilvy. She has served as a mentor to Marketing 497 students who work on the agency side of projects.

“Understanding how to collaborate and work on cross functional teams is huge. Eighty percent of work I did in school was solo work,” Jackson said. “Learning what leadership is, how to divide and conquer, not working in silos … those skills are invaluable. Just being able to go into an interview and talk about a real business problem is huge. Students walk away from the Prime course with an overview of the process, details on a project or campaign they worked on. To say they worked on a big brand like Nestle speaks volumes.”

Angelo Fields, who earned a master of business administration from Smeal in 2013, is a marketing manager for Nestle USA. He works specifically on the company’s frozen snacking team and serves as a mentor for students who work on the brand side of the project.

“In terms of the PSU undergrad students, I have been consistently impressed.  What really stood out last year was some of the creative design work that the teams did – very engaging and interesting,” Fields said.

“I’m also impressed by their interpretation and handling of ambiguity. I TA’ed for an undergrad capstone class (different discipline) and there were times that I was a little concerned about students wanting more clear “problems and answers.”  The reality is that the real/business world is seldom like that and your ability to handle ambiguity is going to be key to not be replaced by computers. The marketing students have seemed more equipped/excited by that proposition.”

To supplement Marketing 497, Smeal introduced, during fall 2020, Marketing 498, a digital marketing practicum course. Taught by Instructor Matt Checchio, students worked with Amazon Advertising and Global Overview, an agency focused on building brands on Amazon. Demand was so high that the course will be offered year round.

In addition, Smeal is also set to debut Marketing 397: a marketing skills course designed to give marketing students a chance to learn and apply contemporary marketing skills to better prepare for future opportunities in marketing.

The hybrid course will introduce marketing skills options in software applications such as Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and writing for marketing, and how those skills fit within potential career goals. Students can also choose from among several social media and data analytics skills, including Google Analytics, SalesForce, and Hootsuite.

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Last Updated March 02, 2021