PSWS students gain real-world marketing and networking experience at Smeal

Four sophomore business majors at Penn State Worthington Scranton recently took part in the first-ever Smeal Kohl's Case Competition at University Park.


They were one of 31 teams that submitted an application to compete and one of the final five from the commonwealth campus system chosen to participate. On the weekend of the competition, three of those five were present and competed, according to Dr. Russell Casey, assistant professor of business administration and the advisor for Worthington Scranton's team.  They were Berks, Greater Allegheny and Worthington Scranton.

Worthington Scranton's team members, pictured at right with team adviser, Dr. Russell Casey, were:  Melissa Manglaviti, Alexandra Paradise, Yomi Ojo, and Kenneth Robbins. They competed against other teams from The Smeal College and Penn State's Berks, Greater Allegheny and University Park campuses.

The contest, the first-ever hosted by the university's Smeal College of Business and Kohl's Department Stores, was a 24-hour case competition and required each team to develop a viable marketing/management option for Kohl's over a 24-hour period. Team members then had 20 minutes to present their case study to Kohl's representatives.


The contest began at 8 a.m. Friday. Students were charged with working on a social media campaign intended to help Kohl's increase its presence on the Internet and had 24 hours to work on the task before having to give their presentations, starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday.


"It was a fantastic idea of viral marketing, and I am super proud of the students as they stayed up until 4:30 a.m. working on the presentation," said Dr. Casey, "They got up an hour and a half later to get ready to present to the Kohl's judges at 8 a.m."    


"It was great to meet and work with new people and learn from the challenges Kohl's presented to us," said Ms. Manglaviti.


The students also put in many hours preparing for the competition in the weeks before it took place.


"I met with the students two nights a week to prepare them, but what is great about working here at Penn State Worthington Scranton is that I was able to get other professors to help in the areas that are not my expertise," Dr. Casey said.


Dr. Casey extended thanks to Dr. Mike Michalisin, professor of management and coordinator of Worthington Scranton's business program; Mr. Jim Hart, communications instructor; Mr. Ron Yevitz, instructor in business administration; and Bill Sciacca, lecturer in business administration, for helping to prepare the students for the competition.


"Dr. Michalisin met with the students for many hours, helping them understand the 'competitive forces model from the resource-based value' point of view; Mr. Hart attended two practice presentations and critiqued the students on their communication skills, which the Kohl's judges commented on, stating how well the students communicated during their presentation; and Mr. Yevitz attended practice sessions and gave feedback to the students on their sales skills; and Mr. Sciacca prepared the students on the "Five Forces" from an economic point of view. 


"Getting the feedback from the judges was really rewarding --to know that we did well, even better than we thought, said Ms. Paradise.


In the end, Penn State Berks took home the $5,000 first prize, but the Worthington Scranton team, was very close to making it into the top two spot, according to the Kohl's judges, Dr. Casey said.


"Although, we didn't win, we competed at Smeal and did a very good job," he added. "In fact, my team was the only team with sophomores, which is why my students and I met so many times during January, as many of the marketing theories they had to use for this competition are not taught to them until they are juniors."


"Our students held their own and I am proud of them," he added.  "It was a great real-world experience, which so many students do not get the opportunity to have. Each of the students talked with Kohl's executives about possible internships at their corporate offices in Wisconsin.    I can tell you as a professor, this experience for our students was one of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career, as I really saw the students flourish."


"The biggest thing I am taking away from the competition is the lasting friendships and business connections I am taking away," said Mr. Robbins.  


Mr. Ojo said the experience taught him about patience when working in a team environment and how to be a better team, as well as three new friends.