The 31 students in Professor Donald Purdy’s Integrated Marketing Communications class at the University at Albany have had only one assignment all semester.
But it’s probably going to be the most important assignment most of the students will undertake during their four years in college.
The class is competing against 10 other schools for the chance to design and implement a marketing plan for the new Nissan Cube, a boxy looking vehicle that has been popular in Japan and now will be sold in the U.S.
Everything the students learn is based around their project, Purdy said. The students, who are all seniors, formed a marketing communications agency with five departments and are given the task of creating a marketing plan for the company. Students sharpen their strategy throughout the entire semester and all the work they do in class is on one project, Purdy said. Purdy doesn’t run the class either; the marketing agency’s two account managers do, and Purdy participates when he has to.
“These students have been in school for three and a half years, and this gives them the opportunity to put what they’ve learned into action,” Purdy said.
Carly Israel, who is in the company’s public relations department, said the class has organized a three-day “Cubed” event to create awareness about the new car. The event, which took place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, included contests, prizes and giveaways, Israel said, along with a picnic barbecue at Empire Commons where the car was displayed.
The students took surveys and gave out business reply cards to track how many people expressed interest in the car.
The students had a $2,500 budget, which Israel conceded isn’t much.
Israel, a marketing major who is graduating in May, said she hopes to get her MBA with a concentration in marketing and advertising. She said she likes the experience she has received through the class.
“There are no textbooks, no lectures and the professor just sits back and lets us do what we want,” she said. “It’s really a lot of doing stuff, getting out there, putting stuff out there, trying to form contacts and make networks with people.”
The students give presentations, Purdy said, and received approval from Nissan representatives to go forward with their plans at the middle of the semester.
Three Nissan representatives were on campus last week for the “Cubed” event to witness the student’s efforts, Purdy said.
Purdy said the class gives students an advantage when applying for jobs because they have the experience behind them.
Briana Boccia, who wanted to be in the finance department but ended up working in public relations, said she is enjoying her role in the project and learning how to be a good people person.
“It’s a great class. You don’t have to worry about tests and memorizing things. It’s life experience that not a lot of people do here at SUNY,” Boccia said. “You’re out in the community doing events and planning and taking on situations that adults out of college get to do.”
Boccia said she has also learned how to talk to people and deal with the world outside college.
Another perk of the class is the students got to tool around in the car for a few days, which isn’t even out in the United States yet.
Purdy said the format for the class was introduced to the school more than four years ago. Students have worked with the FBI and CIA, Honda, Citibank and, locally, with Vale Cemetery.
Students have also created a marketing plan for Purdy’s wife, who is a motivational speaker.
Students give their final presentations to Nissan representatives the first week in May. The top two schools will be flown to Nissan headquarters in Nashville Tenn., to make a presentation in front of Nissan executives. The winning school will get to implement their plan and win a cash prize.
In the past, Purdy said the students have done well but not well enough to win.
Kerry Johnston, who is in the published reports department, said her job is to ensure the final presentation by the class looks professional enough to impress Nissan representatives.
Johnston said she has to be creative and organized and work with all the other departments.
Johnston said the class had good feedback on their mid-term presentation to Nissan, and she is hopeful that they will impress the executives. “It’s been such a great experience,” Johnston said. “At school we don’t get a lot of real live experience but here we’re actually doing the work, and seeing everything come together at the end is very exciting.”