Student marketers at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater proved they are among the best in the world by sweeping top chapter awards at national conventions.
UW-Whitewater's American Marketing Association (AMA) won International Chapter of the Year at the conference in New Orleans, March 22-24.
Pi Sigma Epsilon (PSE), UW-Whitewater's sales organization, won Top Chapter honors at the national convention in Indianapolis, March 13-17.
Students and their advisers garnered other prestigious awards as well, demonstrating the depth of learning in the College of Business and Economics.
AMA won over nearly 350 chapters in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico. This is the sixth International Chapter of the Year award for AMA since 2000, and ninth overall.
"We're seen as the New York Yankees of AMA," said Jimmy Peltier, adviser. "It's the best year we've ever had."
Chapters are judged on how well they prepare members for careers, and how they contribute to the well-being of society. They must submit a chapter plan and annual report, detailing professional development experiences, community service and fundraising projects, communications, recruitment strategies and organization information.
"We didn't want to settle for second best," said Elizabeth Bartlein, senior. "I'm proud of every member of AMA. We're a team - every person contributed in some valuable way."
AMA students finished second in the case competition, a major part of the conference. It's a yearlong project, where students put together a marketing campaign for a real client and are judged by that company's executives.
Carol Scovotti, adviser and associate professor of marketing, said the case competition provides a level of experience students can't get in the classroom
"They learn about strategy, project design and the complexities of the market," she said. "It's not textbook work, it's real work - that's the power of it."
This year, Case competitors were asked to market online general education courses for Pearson Learning Solutions. UW-Whitewater students designed a highly interactive plan using online and social media advertising in their campaign called "Prepare Yourself."
Bartlein and fellow students Casey Klauck, Jake Struck and Katelyn Herlache, presented UW-Whitewater's case.
"While any student may hit roadblocks and stumble, what impresses me about our students is their passion and hunger for success. They come back with even greater effort again and again," said Pavan Chennamaneni, adviser and assistant professor of markting.
AMA members also won individual awards.
Dana Aschaker, senior, was named Student Marketer of Year out of more than 10,000 students.
"When they announced the winner, I didn't believe it," Aschaker said. "I'm still in shock. It's a great feeling to know you won on an international level. There's a ton of pride and a little bit of angst being on this team, knowing that everyone else thinks you're the school to beat."
"Lily Gives Life," produced by Emily Gullickson, senior, won first place in the video competition. The emotionally powerful story focuses on organ donation. Many of AMA's community outreach efforts include inspiring people to become registered organ donors and organ donor advocates.
Peltier, a professor of marketing who won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, was named Outstanding Adviser at the 2012 event. His research paper, "Is Wikipedia Reliable? Heck Yes!," was named best at the conference.
He sees UW-Whitewater as the chapter that "lifts the boat" for the entire competition.
"Other chapters see how high we've reached, so they reach higher," Peltier said. "We're reaching higher still."
PSE won Top Chapter honors over 70 other collegiate chapters in the United States.
"We were competing against chapters with as many as 80 members, and we only have 20," said Nicholas Patterson, senior. "It's an honor to win. We put in so much hard work."
Chapters were evaluated based on their plan and annual report, which detail activities that prepare their students for careers. UW-Whitewater's PSE report described professional events like career fairs and resume workshops, and service opportunities including Relay for Life, Polar Plunge and highway clean-up projects.
"It was exciting and rewarding for us to present our plan, because we were able to talk about all the money we raised for the American Cancer Society," said Bethany Firkus, senior. "It was an intricate presentation, and we worked on it for months."
UW-Whitewater's success in Indianapolis marks back-to-back wins for the team in the conference's Business Oriented Strategic Simulation. Starting in the fall, teams had eight weeks to create and implement new marketing strategies. This year's competition focused on video games. Students had to consider project design, consumer targeting and advertising.
"They learn just as much from parts of the project that don't work, as those that do," said Robert Boostrom, adviser and assistant professor of marketing. "From planning to organizing to structuring a campaign, our students are learning professional skills they will take with them into their careers."
Students also had opportunities to network with business leaders and PSE alumni from across the country, including Timothy J. Hyland, for whom UW-Whitewater's business building is named.
"To have that many professionals at your disposal, helping you, teaching you, talking with you, was tremendous," Patterson said.
"I've become LinkedIn friends with some corporate leaders and we're already talking about job opportunities," Firkus said. "I've met other students from all over the country, and made connections. There's a real sense of family."
"You get to spend a whole week with your chapter," Patterson said. "It brings you together and I've learned a lot, but I also had a lot of fun."
Bradley Stefanski, sophomore, won a future leader award at the convention, and Boostrom was elected to the Mu Kappa Tau National Marketing Honorary Board of Trustees. Lois Smith, adviser and associate dean, continues to serve on the National Educational Foundation Board of Trustees.
"Our students are very motivated, hard-working and goal-oriented," said Smith. "It's a small, cohesive group that's very satisfying to work with."