A unique business course is allowing Gonzaga students an opportunity to utilize their skills in the real world. 

"[The Promotion Project class] is essentially acting as a marketing agency for an outside client," according to the current student leader of the class, John Jennings. Past examples of clients include Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Krispy Kreme, Dutch Bros and GU.

This semester, however, the marketing agency has taken on a different type of client: a bank; more specifically, Washington Trust Bank’s wealth management division located in downtown Spokane. According to the Washington Trust Bank website they have locations all over the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Idaho and Oregon). Marketing for a financial institution is different than marketing for a doughnut shop, but students in the promotion project (Marketing 490) were up for the challenge.

The Promotion Project, in partnership with Washington Trust Bank, is trying to make an impact on GU’s campus as well. Junior Patricia Alvarado said the idea is to improve financial literacy on GU's campus. With the help of Washington Trust Bank employees, students would be able to learn about the financial realities of life after college. 

The main benefit of the Promotion Project is reaped by the students in the course.

Jennings said that college, more often than not, teaches you theory.

“The actual application of skills is something that we really lack sometimes," he said. 

This is where the Promotion Project comes in. It gives marketing students like Jennings the opportunity to test their theoretical knowledge in the real world.

In the real world you often don’t get to choose your clients, and according to Jennings this is a shortcoming of Marketing courses, since they allow you to choose which companies you develop marketing strategies for. Jennings said students in Marketing 490 didn’t have prior experience with wealth management, or Washington Trust Bank.

Professor of Marketing, Connie Lipsker, is the teacher who is overseeing the Promotion Project this semester. She said that the real-life skills that are developed in Marketing 490 translate to enhanced portfolios for this handful of students. This is a give-and-take relationship between the students and the company they are developing marketing strategies for.

"The GU students are given opportunities to go out and hold events or advertise for the company in the community," Lipsker said.

Another benefit to this class is financial resources. The local businesses that the Promotion Project works with almost always gives the class a sum of money to support their marketing initiatives.

Lipsker said that it is one of the important tests of the course: “One of the tests of [Marketing 490] is leveraging the budget to be much more valuable than the dollar amount," she said. 

According to Jennings, a part of the process is breaking into smaller, more concentrated groups within the class to develop different parts of the marketing strategy. PR, marketing and accounting majors (among others) all utilize their expertise in order to maximize the money they have to work with.

Student collaboration and involvement is paramount to the sustainable success of the Promotion Project. Lispker has embraced this philosophy by letting Jennings lead the class on a day-to-day basis.

Lispker said she is there for guidance and advice. She helps the class run smoothly and makes sure that the course is achieving its goal of helping the community, one client at a time.

Jonah Jellesed is a staff writer.

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