ATLANTA — Mercer University's business program in Atlanta aims to bring real world experience into the classroom, and that's just what the 28 students in Bob Anservitz's undergraduate Marketing Promotions class did. The students put the knowledge they were learning in the classroom to work developing a strategic marketing plan for PAWS Atlanta, one of the area's oldest and most well-regarded animal welfare organizations.
The students' work was of the quality that the chairman of the board of directors of PAWS, Chris Tierney, said he and his fellow board members would consider utilizing a significant amount of what was proposed. Among the most impressive items was a modified logo and a new tagline for the organization: "Pets. Love. Homes."
"This was clearly a high-caliber group," Tierney said. "The enthusiasm and the effort of the students showed through. They really put more into this than what they had to just to get a grade. They really worked hard for us."
All 28 students in the class presented their ideas and materials on March 6 to PAWS Atlanta's executives and board members. The students got tough questions, but also glowing reviews. In addition to their regular course work and exams in this class, the students also spent time in and out of this class working in Task Forces on this client's marketing needs. In response, they developed a number of deliverables, including a strategic marketing plan, public relations plan, PowerPoint walk and talk presentation, public service commercials, volunteer recruitment plan, and print and electronic advertising.
The Task Forces were responsible for different portions of the marketing plan, with each group presenting during a three-hour session that included numerous questions from the PAWS Atlanta board members. In the end, students got a lot out of their experience, according to Catherine McGillivray, a senior in the class.
"I definitely think it is a very worthy cause and it was fabulous that we were able to work with them," McGillivray added. "I felt proud to be able to contribute to it."
The volunteer animal welfare effort began in 1966 and later was incorporated as the DeKalb Humane Society. Over the past 40 years, it has expanded to include numerous services to homeless pets and has become the largest no-kill adoption shelter in the Atlanta area. Because PAWS Atlanta is so well run, it earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. This rating held special appeal for Anservitz. "When choosing a client to work with a class, among my main criteria is that the prospective client have both significant marketing needs and unquestionable fiscal integrity," he said.
In part because its name implied it received county money, even though it did not, and because its focus widened beyond DeKalb County and into the metro Atlanta area, the organization changed its name to PAWS Atlanta in 2004. The name change and the widened scope created a challenge in marketing, and Mercer's Marketing Promotions class helped to fill that void, Tierney said.
Tierney told students during the presentation that now that PAWS ATLANTA is serving a larger area it is essential that it have more visibility in order to be supported by the community.
"At our next board meeting the students' project will be a focal point for all the members," Tierney said. "The tagline is generating the most buzz right now, but we're going to go back through what the class provided us, which was just a tremendous amount of information, and pick out the things we can implement immediately and the things that we can use down the road."
Anservitz, who has been an adjunct marketing professor at Mercer for 20 years, knew the majority of the students in this class from having being in prior classes with them. "While working for an actual client in a class setting can be a dicey situation, I knew the remarkable potential of so many of these students," Anservitz said. "I teach here because the caliber of student that Mercer attracts is second-to-none." Still, Anservitz explained the demands of this type of client work and then put the decision to a vote. "The class voted to take on these major client commitments and ended up delivering a total tour de force," he said.
"This is truly an exceptional group of individuals. They developed great work for a great client. I couldn't have asked for more," Anservitz said. "This was really a win-win for Mercer, for PAWS Atlanta and for the students."
About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as regional academic centers in Henry County, Douglas County, Macon and Eastman. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. For 16 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South.