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Backpack-to-Briefcase Partnership with Local Businesses Offers Real-World Experience

May 8, 2018

Integrated Marketing Presentations

A unique partnership between local organizations and the Saint Francis University Shields School of Business is providing students opportunities to learn outside the classroom and engage in community outreach. 

Facilitated by the Shields’ Backpack to Briefcase Program, students from Dr. Tricia McFadden’s three upper-level marketing classes teamed up with local business owners to provide client-consultant marketing services.

Students enrolled in the MKTG 404: Marketing Management, MKTG 321: Marketing Research, and MKTG 325: Integrated Marketing Communications courses engaged a praxis-approach to working with real marketplace clients. The objective is to create either a strategic integrated marketing communications (IMC) plan or marketing research project based on the organization's marketing goals, objectives, and needs.

“These courses focus on a client-consultant model to emphasize the importance of experiential learning in a higher education classroom,” said Dr. McFadden. “In the spirit of our Franciscan tradition, we also engage the conversation of ethics in the marketplace and the importance of an ethical approach to IMC planning and marketing research.”

The students regularly met with management and staff, collected company and competitor data, and created a custom marketing strategy that compliments each business model. They then presented their findings and analyses to the business leaders. 

The experience encourages students to network with local professionals, providing them an industry perspective of marketing and client collaboration. Participation in the project often leads to future internships and jobs.

Businesses that have participated in the Backpack to Briefcase program include the Ebensburg Main Street PartnershipCambria County Conservation & Recreation Authority (Ghost Town Trail)Central Cambria Educational FoundationThe Comics VaultDamin Printing Co.Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-JohnstownEveryday Gourmet & Fine Food MerchantGold Rush Diamonds and BoutiqueHumane Society of Cambria CountyImmergrun Golf CoursePour on CenterPunxsutawney Groundhog ClubRuga Rue JerkeySignalman’s Safety SleevesSaint Benedict’s Catholic SchoolSouthern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA),Stake RakeUplifting Athletes (SFU Chapter), and Vale Wood Farms.

Feedback from Participating Businesses

“Working with the Dr. McFadden and students from Saint Francis University’s Shields School of Business was a great experience for our program,” said Danea Koss, Community Development Director of the Ebensburg Borough/Ebensburg Main Street Partnership. “The students were engaged, energetic and full of great ideas. They were able to provide a fresh perspective on marketing and promotion of community events, ideas on ways to enhance our current schedule of events and valuable insight on our social media initiatives. We found the students to be diligent in their research, articulate in their presentation and professional in all of our interactions.”

“I found students committed to my business and professors that held the students accountable,” said a representative from the Comics Vault in Altoona. “I was given hopeful data and compliments that made my heart soar. This program produced ongoing changes in the way I run my business and its students provided me with the tools, ideas and courage to carve out my place in the community.”

"The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is so very grateful to be selected as a client for the IMC class,” said Pam Seasoltz Director of Stewardship and Development Diocese of  Altoona-Johnstown. “The students' insight and ideas to move our Diocese forward communications-wise is vital to our mission. To proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires communicating in many ways to the faithful of all ages. It is quite a challenge and we are blessed to have the class guide us." 

"It's been a really rewarding experience to have SFU students take a fresh glance at our business and provide advice and perspective based upon their class lessons,” said Carissa Itle Westrick, Director of Business Development Vale Wood Farms. “These students are uniquely positioned to provide insight from a new generation of consumers, and that's a valuable connection for our local business."

If your business is interested in participating in the SFU Backpack to Briefcase Program, please contact Tabor Schilling at

The Shields School of Business

Backpack to Briefcase Program

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