Student co-chairs “stretch the global awareness” of the 20th annual Wake Forest MBA Marketing Summit

1.31.2010 Article, Diversity, School News

Students expand view at summit
Originally Posted on Sunday, January 31, 2010 | By Richard Craver
Reposted from the Winston-Salem Journal

"Expanding the brand" is becoming an unofficial mantra at Wake Forest University, whether it's involving athletics, education, health care or reputation.

Helping to accomplish that goal are three business graduate students in charge of this week's 20th annual Wake Forest MBA Marketing Summit, which will run Thursday through Saturday. More than 80 students will participate in one of the largest student-run activities at the university.

The summit centers on teams of graduate and undergraduate students having 36 hours to come up with marketing solutions for a real-world problem revealed by the case sponsor on Thursday.

There's also a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Friday on the topic of "Diversity in Corporate America."

The discussion, which features diversity officials from five Fortune 500 companies — Hewitt Associates, IBM Corp., McDonald's Corp., PepsiCo, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. — is open to the public and will be held in Pugh Auditorium at the Benson University Center. Steve Reinemund, the dean of the Wake Forest Schools of Business, will be the moderator.

The most noticeable strategy change chosen by the second-year students — Ashley Stafford, Emily Willard and Marty Wilson — was bringing an international flavor to the case competition.

The London Business School and IESE Business School from Barcelona, Spain, are two of the eight MBA teams. The University of Toronto represents one of the six undergraduate teams.

Wake Forest, as the host school, has teams in both categories. UNC Chapel Hill is represented in the MBA category.

"Our goal was to stretch the global awareness of the competition as part of taking the summit to a higher level this year," Stafford said.

Wilson said that there were more than 100 applicants for the competition, "which we believe says a lot about the reputation and brand of Wake Forest University."

Securing IBM as the case sponsor helped their cause immensely, the students said. It is the second year that students will know the sponsor before their frantic 36-hour competition begins.

"By naming the sponsor ahead of time, it helps raise the publicity of the event and the awareness of the university," Willard said. "It creates an excitement with the sponsor that can translate into more of their officers on campus during the event, which helps with networking.

"It also gives the teams more time to come up with a solution that the sponsor may consider."

It didn't hurt that the prize money for the competition was raised to a combined $78,000 — $23,000 more than last year.

Roger Beahm, a visiting professor of practice in the business schools, said that the batting average may be low in terms of the sponsors moving forward with the students' proposals.

"But every company has taken something positive away from the experience," said Beahm, who is overseeing the students and the summit. For example, he said that Frito Lay used a number of ideas from the summit for its True North snacks campaign.

"We can honestly say that there is nothing like the summit either nationally or internationally, and we're proud of that," Beahm said.

The summit is part of the university's pursuit of a larger national spotlight.

For example, Dr. John McConnell, the first head of both N.C. Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said he is serious enough about gaining a bigger national reputation through rankings and research that the health-care system may even consider changing its name.

Already, some hallowed names — whether on campus or in the community — have been supplanted in favor of the university brand or corporate sponsorship.

Those include the Bowman Gray School of Medicine, changed in 1997, and Groves Stadium, changed to BB&T Field in 2007. The Gray and Groves families played major financial roles in the building of each facility.

Reinemund said that just as with the medical-school decision, any name change is not aimed at devaluing the heritage of the institution or the benefactors.

The graduate students said they are nervous about how the summit will go, but excited about putting their fingerprints on this chapter in the university's growth.

"We're hoping that this event helps exemplify the message that Wake Forest is the place where collaboration meets competition," Stafford said.