A group of advertising students in a University of Arizona Eller College of Management course has spent the semester producing and executing a job recruitment campaign for the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association that represents the majority of oil and gas companies in the U.S.
The team recently submitted the work to the Energy and Jobs Tomorrow Case Challenge, a national competition sponsored by the institute and EdVenture Partners. The winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship.
Last year, Eller students in Ed Ackerley's Marketing 425 course, "Advertising Management," won that very competition with a campaign for AT&T, and other UA teams have fared well in other competitions held in recent years.
In addition to the American Petroleum Institute's job awareness campaign, with a $1,500 budget, Ackerley's students have run six simultaneous micro marketing campaigns, designing, implementing and assessing the impact of promotions for several local businesses: Kaplan Test Prep, Hartmann Real Estate, the Garden Kitchen, Tuller Trophy, El Continental Barber Shop and the Stack Challenge App.
The course is characteristic of initiatives aligned with the UA's 100% Engagement initiative, providing students with the type of experience meant to make them more competitive and better prepared for entering the workforce.
"Over the years, there has been a deeper understanding of the importance and value of these programs," Ackerley said. "I think it is a vibrant part of the college, and we have done an excellent job."
The students were placed into teams, and each team was provided with a budget for each of the micro campaigns. All class members worked together on the American Petroleum Institute competition. For each of the campaigns — whether for awareness or recruitment — students had to design fliers, produce recruitment messages and plan and coordinate events, among other tasks.
"This is very similar to having an actual job," said Dalton Shade, a junior majoring in business management and marketing. Also, as creative director, Shade has been responsible for the oversight of all creative elements, making sure that the teams of students were following guidelines established by each of their clients.
"The other thing that makes this really cool is that we are working for real clients," he said.
Students will learn in May whether they have advanced in the Energy and Jobs Tomorrow Case Challenge.
One of the difficulties while working on the project has been to encourage graduating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the STEM fields — to consider jobs in the oil and gas industry. While graduates have had their eye on research positions or jobs as software developers, computer system analysts or engineers, the team has tried to encourage them to consider positions focused on marketing and also green and renewable energy.
"People don't see the many job openings in the industry, and the number of jobs is growing," Shade said.
Ackerley, who has involved his students in activities with EdVenture Partners for more than 15 years, said such engagement motivates students to think in more creative, collaborative and responsible ways. It also helps that students experiencing the various challenges and troubles involved in project development and implementation.
"Technology is advancing so quickly, and it has changed the way we look at projects and how students implement them, but with that speed and quickness, there are going to be a number of hiccups," Ackerley said. "It's a great lesson for students, especially when using social media and other tech devices, to implement a campaign and have to step back and think of the ramifications of their work: Who will see it? Where does it go? What are the responses going to be?"
Holly Inglish has served as public relations director and also serves as lead for the Kaplan and Hartmann campaigns.
"I have been excited to take this course since my first semester of Eller. I remember when Dr. Ackerley came up to the front of the classroom, full of new marketing majors, and told us about how everybody wants to take advertising, but it will always be at 8 a.m.," said Inglish, a marketing major who will graduate in May.
Inglish also took Ackerley's course in integrated marketing communications. These experiences working with Ackerley, other students and their clients have carried more weight for her.
"While in integrated marketing communications, I felt that it was more of an internship than a class," Inglish said. "It helped me learn to better prioritize and balance school, work and life."
When students are in the job market, they inevitably run into an experience requirement of three to five years, so Ackerley has spent decades making sure they have applied experience well before they are handed a degree.
"This provides an experience of real-world situations where they have the opportunity to think, extrapolate and view into the future to see how things are going to be. That's a great learning experience — better it happen now than later," said Ackerley, who also has an adjunct position in the UA School of Theatre, Film & Television.
"We need to give students the opportunity to discover themselves and what their futures might be," he said. "That's the challenge I take on: I try to inspire these young people to do something they might not have done otherwise."