Graduate Students Put Theory to Practice for Local Business and Nonprofit
January 10, 2013
Translating theory to practice is a cornerstone of the College of Business mission of providing transformational experiences for our business students. Two graduate classes took that mission to heart last semester as they completed classroom projects that directly benefited two San Antonio organizations: Boysville and Rackspace.
Students in Professor Tina Lowrey’s graduate Marketing Management class typically learn the theories of marketing research, brand strategy and marketing communications. But students participating in her class last semester put those theories to work on a live case for Boysville, a non-profit organization that provides temporary shelter and long-term residential care for children who are unable to remain at home.
Throughout the semester, the students met with representatives from Boysville to learn the needs of the organization, visited the facility and conducted research and analysis of their current activities. The end product was the development of a comprehensive, actionable marketing strategy for the organization.
“Live cases provide students with an actual experience of working for real clients on real-world problems that static cases cannot,” said Lowrey, professor of marketing. “Students learn to work together as a team to solve clients’ problems and make networking contacts that will benefit them far beyond the class. Such experiences also bring to life the concepts that are taught through lecture and reading assignments.”
“The impact to Boysville is significant,” said Dave McIlvoy, chief executive officer at Boysville. “We were blown away by the professionalism of the students and the quality of their report. I am now working with our board to implement an integrated marketing approach following the structure that the students established.”
What better way to learn about managing high tech organizations than to work on a case study project for one of the leading cloud computing companies, Rackspace Hosting. Students in Larry Ball’s Strategic Management of Technology capstone class were invited by Rackspace to position their account teams to provide proactive solutions to their customer’s business challenges. Graduate students analyzed Rackspace’s competitors and interviewed employees to develop a proposed solution.
“We approached UTSA about this project in an effort to grow our talent pipeline,” said Heather Arrington, senior manager of fanatical support at Rackspace. “We thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the students and were impressed with their recommendations.”
“This was a new way of learning, it seemed more real,” said Ryan Zapata, a member of the class and recent graduate. “It is essential to be in the classroom environment, but working with professionals on an actual business need made the academic research seem even more relevant.”
While the project was instrumental to the student learning experience, it also produced winning results for Rackspace as well. “Rackspace saw the value that we provided through our research,” said Zapata. And in the end, the experience was even more rewarding for Zapata who was hired to work at Rackspace upon graduation on this project.
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