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Published December 17, 2018
When new Snowy Range Academy Principal John Cowper turned to University of Wyoming College of Business students for marketing help for the free K-8 public charter school, he didn’t realize how much professional assistance he would receive.
For the past four and a half years, students in Associate Professor Elizabeth Minton’s “Advanced Marketing Management” class have taken on real-world, hands-on marketing projects for local and state businesses. In this case, the client was Snowy Range Academy (SRA), the Laramie-based charter school.
“The class is the marketing capstone course that is a summative course where students apply all the material they have learned in prior courses to work with a real-world client,” Minton says. “Students act as consultants for clients around the state to collect primary market research data and use this as the foundation for making strategic marketing recommendations. I am always on the lookout for new clients that want marketing assistance in this partnership-style project.”
When Cowper took over as principal, he learned that SRA had worked with Minton’s marketing classes in the past and that she was willing to collaborate again to help the school with marketing.
“We most certainly needed to market SRA, so this appeared to be a great opportunity to access professional marketing recommendations,” he says.
The dozen students working for SRA in Minton’s class were divided into three teams of four members each, and the groups recently presented marketing proposals to SRA’s leadership team. One team, “Mountain Mix Marketing,” had its proposal stand out when the members actually implemented part of their marketing strategy earlier this semester.
Team members, all seniors, included group leader Samantha Daniels, a marketing major from Aurora, Colo.; Sydney Meyers, management, and Max Prevost, marketing, both from Jackson; and Lauren Ruebenson, marketing, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Cowper says the goal for the 200-student school was to increase community awareness and understanding of SRA, its mission, vision and education philosophy.
“We wanted the Laramie community to know that we are an option for parents seeking a different educational experience for their children,” he says. “We are proud to share that, this year, we are one of only 20 charter schools in the nation and one of only three schools in Wyoming to receive a national blue ribbon for exemplary high performance from the U.S. Department of Education.”
The problem the UW students found when researching their projects was that SRA needed help marketing those achievements. And some of the students knew nothing about the local charter school.
“One of their goals, we found, was that SRA had to overcome some misconceptions of what they do. Me, personally, I thought they were a ski school before we picked them as a client,” Daniels says with a smile. “Lauren, Sydney and Max have skiing backgrounds, so I thought SRA would be a great client to work with when I thought they were a ski school.”
That’s when all three UW student teams went to work on their marketing plans.
“All three marketing teams met and exceeded our expectations. They took their roles very seriously as professionals and provided us with three very useful marketing plans,” Cowper says.
Each of the three teams came up with marketing plans for the short and long term, but it was the Mountain Mix Marketing group’s proposal that stood out.
“John told us they had a small marketing budget and didn’t have a lot to work with,” Daniels says. “We wanted to help them find something that would appeal to the community, and that’s how we came up with a fundraiser that would benefit them.”
The students initiated a public ice skating event at the Laramie Ice and Event Center.
“We wanted to make it free to the community as a fundraiser for SRA. It was free ice skating, plus a silent auction,” Ruebenson says. “We made fliers, and the school district distributed them to all the schools. We came up with a plan to promote the event as much as we could.”
Nearly 20 Laramie businesses donated items to the silent auction; some included cash donations. The event was a success, with more than 460 people attending. A total of more than $1,000 was raised that evening, with the funds going to SRA’s marketing budget.
“Overall, I thought SRA was thrilled with what we all did for them; I don’t think they expected that much from us, especially when we actually implemented the fundraiser for them,” Ruebenson says.
Team members say Cowper and his leadership team were on hand at the fundraising event, passing out SRA information and answering many questions about the school.
“We will continue to implement the students’ marketing recommendations. Most of the suggestions are achievable inside our current budget, and we will do everything we can to bring these ideas to fruition for the benefit of SRA,” Cowper adds. “Overall, this was an extremely positive experience, which will enhance Snowy Range Academy and, most important, benefit our students.”
The UW students say the hands-on experience they received working with an actual client will help their marketing and management careers.
“This class is a good way to actually have hands-on experience with a client, to understand and identify their needs, working around their budgets,” Meyers says.
Daniels adds that Minton provided necessary leadership for a successful marketing campaign.
“A lot of times, I think students feel they can’t reach out to their professors, but Elizabeth was always there for us; we kept in continuous contact with her through the duration of this project,” Daniels says. “She has been so supportive of our project all semester and gave us some great feedback. I feel that we grew professionally working with her.”
Other students presenting proposals to SRA’s leadership team were Sarah Devine, Alexandra Farkas and Wayne Lilly, all of Cheyenne; Brooke Michael, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Pahl Schwab, Afton; Polly Shantz, Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Tory Thoman, Riverton; and Johannes Votteler, Germany.
For more information, call Minton at (307) 766-3616 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.