Students in The University of Tulsa’s Collins College of Business regularly share their expertise with companies and nonprofits in Tulsa and surrounding communities. These projects not only give the students real-world experience, they also help local businesses and nonprofits find creative solutions to expand their brands and better reach consumers.
Professor of Marketing Charles Wood believes that hands-on experience is a valuable tool for learning about the world of marketing. “The purpose of all of these collaboration projects is for students to apply concepts they learn in class to real-world settings,” Wood said. “For an applied discipline such as marketing, real learning occurs best when students are required to synthesize and experientially use theories and concepts in new contexts.”
Dee Harris of Tulsa’s Family and Children Service Center worked with TU business students in both the spring and summer semesters. “Professor Wood’s classes are the perfect example of balancing student learning with community need,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be a partner in real-world learning as it invigorates students and provides nonprofits with a new perspective about our marketing and communication plans. I always look forward to collaborating with students and enjoy watching them discover, create and solve.”
Integrated Marketing Communication
A potent example of this university-and-community engagement arose in the spring 2020 Integrated Marketing Communication course. In this course, undergraduate students formed teams and worked with seven local nonprofit and for-profit organizations. At the beginning of the project, representatives of the organizations came to campus multiple times to check-in with the students’ progress and provide assistance where needed. Then, once the COVID-19 pandemic altered the semester plans, the meetings between student groups and their organizations continued, albeit online.
Despite the unexpected transition to online classes, the students and their companies maintained a close working relationship that promoted growth for both parties. The student teams developed and managed a full Google AdWords campaign to help their clients achieve their goals. A local social media expert, Joe Hart, came to these sessions and supported the teams throughout the semester.
During the summer, community engagement continued, but this time with graduate students. A consultancy brief project in the master of business administration (MBA) Consumer Behavior course paired small groups of students with 10 local companies including Scoops Rolls and Creamery, Runners World and Marshall Brewing. Each group of students listened to their partner-firm’s concerns and developed personalized plans to meet their needs.
For the summer course, Wood explained, “the only selection criteria provided was that the business be locally owned. Students were encouraged to choose their own clients based on what they believed was the organization’s potential and clear need for some advice and assistance, meet with the owners and then proceed from there.”
All the groups delivered potential aids to the companies, including ideas about better use of social media, customer loyalty programs, community engagement, retail layout improvements, partnerships, branding and promotions.
One student in the MBA course, Danny Donley, said of the summer experience: “The chance to work hands-on with a real company in our community that is struggling a little extra because of the COVID-19 pandemic was a tremendous experience. My team worked with a small massage therapy company and helped use our knowledge and research to immediately revitalize the company’s marketing strategy and reach. We had the opportunity to put creative ideas into action to test our own skills while benefiting a local firm, which is rewarding in two ways.”
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