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Capstone of the Community

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A group of students from Shashi Matta’s marketing class presented a proposal for how to better market the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Credit: Courtesy of Shellee Fisher

A group of students from Shashi Matta’s marketing class presented a proposal for how to better market the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Credit: Courtesy of Shellee Fisher

Each year, Marketing Projects, a capstone course taught by Shashi Matta, an associate professor of marketing at Fisher College of Business, partners with one local for-profit company and one nonprofit organization to provide free marketing advice to the organizations and real-world experience to Ohio State students.

While all marketing students must complete this capstone course, Matta said that it goes much further than that.

“This course offers students real-world experience and a résumé boost, which doesn’t happen in a typical class setting,” he said.

Matta chooses the organizations that the students will work with, but sometimes the organizations reach out to him. A past student of Matta’s, Steven Werman, current chief financial officer for the clothing store Homage, contacted Matta to partner with the capstone class in Spring 2014.

Matta has also worked with the Columbus City Schools Food Service, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the Quilts of Valor Foundation, which sews quilts for war veterans.

Matta said students are split into roughly eight teams with six people per team. Each group works with the same company, competing to create the best marketing plan.

The companies meet with the students three times throughout the semester: during the first week in order to explain what marketing problems they are facing, halfway through the semester to check on progress, and at the end of the year to choose which student team had the strongest strategies.

Cory Woodhall, a 2015 OSU alumnus with a degree in marketing, was one of the winning students when Matta’s class partnered with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

Although Woodhall was not able to attend, his team showcased their marketing plan at the annual OSU Outreach and Engagement Forum in Spring 2015.

Woodhall said that Matta really pushed his students to achieve excellence in this course.

“He made sure we all realized that this is the real world, and that these are people’s lives and businesses that we are affecting,” Woodhall said.

In his particular case, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra needed help attracting a younger audience, as well as families.

“Their audience is graying and very soon they will be left with none, and so they were very interested in finding out how to make the CSO more relevant,” Matta said.

Woodhall said that his team observed the symphony, surveyed audience members and spoke to board members to discover how they could best help the CSO.

Matta said that Woodhall and his team came up with many ways to confront the barrier preventing young people and young families from potentially enjoying the symphony, such as employing Disney-themed events.

While students have worked with nonprofits and for-profits, Matta said it is the nonprofits that truly create the best experience. He said that it is very important to give back to the community, especially because OSU is positioned perfectly to give back, but also because of nonprofits’ typically small budgets.

Shashi Matta’s marketing class presented a way to help the Quilts of Valor Foundation with marketing. Credit: Courtesy of Shellee Fisher

Shashi Matta’s marketing class presented a way to help the Quilts of Valor Foundation with marketing. Credit: Courtesy of Shellee Fisher

“They have limited resources and budgets, so it forces students to think of very innovative and strong solutions,” Matta said. “That’s where the best forms of creativity come out.”

Companies implement their favorite elements of students’ work, and often express their gratitude for its success. Matta said they sometimes reward students with food vouchers, coupons and even positions on the board.

Matta said he will continue to teach Marketing Strategies and partner with local businesses.

“These are businesses getting free marketing advice and students getting hands-on experience. It’s a win-win,” Matta said.

engaged scholars logo

The Engaged Scholars logo accompanies stories that feature and examine research and teaching partnerships formed between the Ohio State University and the community (local, state, national and global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources. These stories spring from a partnership with OSU’s Office of Outreach and Engagement. The Lantern retains sole editorial control over the selection, writing and editing of these stories.

Correction March 4: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified a capstone course in the Fisher College of Business.

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