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Students in Dr. Sabinah Wanjugu’s Marketing 355 class at the University of Southern Indiana’s Romain College of Business had the unique opportunity to present marketing campaigns to a team of six judges from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) on April 27, in a professional setting—the final step of a collaborative project that spanned the entire Spring Semester.

The collaboration started when the Indiana Commission for Higher Education came to USI’s campus during the Fall Semester for an annual visit. During the visit, Dr. Sudesh Mujumdar, Dean of the Romain College of Business, and Dr. Chad Milewicz, Associate Professor of Marketing, mentioned the College’s Biometrix Discovery Lab and its capabilities to utilize eye-tracking and emotional response technology to analyze behaviors. The Commission saw an opportunity to tap into the technology to optimize its website.

That’s where Dr. Wanjugu’s class came in. One of the first projects for the students was to audit the user experience on the Commission’s Learn More Indiana website. They conducted a series of studies through surveys, eye-tracking and emotional response studies within the Biometrix Discovery Lab. Students from Reitz High School in Evansville were invited to the lab to participate in the studies. After analyzing the data, the USI students were able to provide recommendations to the Commission on how they could improve the website to cater better toward their audience of high school students, high school counselors and parents.

“As an educator, it's incredibly gratifying to see our students engage in experiential learning opportunities and utilize the available technology on our campus, such as the Biometrix Discovery Lab, to enhance their learning,” Wanjugu said. “We're grateful to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education for providing our students with this unique opportunity to work on real-world marketing campaigns and showcase their skills in a professional setting.”

In addition to optimizing the website, students were also asked to create an ad campaign focused on increasing 2023 FAFSA filing rates for Indiana students. For this goal, students were split into teams of three which each group developing three unique campaigns that included creating content for social media, email, display advertising and search engine advertising.

“We got to act as a real marketing agency, make our own creative campaigns and present our research,” said Hannah Lemond, senior management and marketing major. “We had the opportunity to be heard and critiqued by real professionals that work in this field! Working with CHE was such an amazing experience!”

At the end of the semester, each team had the opportunity to present their campaigns in front of judges from the Commission. Members of the Commission communicated with students throughout the semester on Zoom calls to give feedback during their work.

“We worked hard all semester helping CHE with their website, social media, advertising and so much more,” said Madison Hatfield, senior marketing major. “It was an amazing learning experience that I will forever be grateful to have been a part of.”

Dr. Wanjugu called the project a true College collaboration and credited the work and support of the Dean as well as the Marketing Department and its faculty in bringing the opportunity to the students and seeing it through completion. The project became an immersive learning experience that gave students a chance to see what presenting an ad campaign looks like in a professional setting, while working with specific goals and parameters set by a client.

“It has been a great opportunity to work with the Commission for Higher Education this semester,” said Christina Wolfe, senior marketing major. “It opened my eyes to the power that education has and the significant impact it can have on individuals. I have learned a lot from this experience and I’m looking forward to seeing what possibilities are next.”

Photos of the student presentations: