The members of the CSI team pose with their Second Place plaque.

In only their third year of involvement in the American Marketing Association Collegiate Case Competition, students from the College of Staten Island (CSI) recently returned from the finals in New Orleans with a second place ranking out of more than 100 teams from across North America. Top honors went to a team from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the oldest Business school in the country.

“This is an astounding achievement on the part of our students and Professor Dan Zhang. Reaching this level of success two years in a row, particularly as such a young program without many years of competition experience, has put our marketing program and School of Business on the map,” noted Susan Holak, PhD, Dean of the School of Business.

According to the AMA Website, the Collegiate Case Competition began in 1986 and is a year-long event that brings together top marketing students to work on a challenge submitted by a sponsoring organization. The sponsor provides a detailed marketing problem for North America’s best students to tackle, who compete by developing a marketing strategy as part of this nationally recognized competition. The sponsor this year was Mary Kay cosmetics, who were seeking to adapt to changing consumer needs by leveraging the company’s personalized beauty experience in the digital space.

CSI team members Caitlin Fontana, Jessica Lin, Michelle Lvovich, Serena Medina, Brenton Mitchell, Dean Napolitano, Vincent Rao, and Tian Richards are enrolled in an Advanced Marketing Strategy course with Associate Professor Dan Zhang, PhD, serving as their faculty instructor and team mentor.

“I want to commend the efforts of Professor Dan Zhang, who worked tirelessly to prepare our students. This transformational learning experience will be a wonderful addition to our repository of information documenting how the School of Business meets the standards related to student-student and student-faculty interaction, as well as career and professional development, as we move toward accreditation by AACSB,” Dr. Holak commented. AACSB, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, is an international accreditor of Business Schools.

Professor Zhang spent countless hours working with the students on all aspects of their marketing plan, including the presentation of the plan to the Mary Kay judges. Everything about the plan and the presentation was developed as a coordinated team effort, including handouts, media materials, and the team members’ posture, diction, and attire.

Professor Thomas Tellefsen, Chair of the Department of Marketing, says that the AMA Case Competition is one of the premier competitions in the country for marketing students, and that it is “truly a national stage with the highest standards of excellence that draws the best students from the top business schools in the country.” He commended this year’s team, stating that “our students demonstrated that they can not only survive, but thrive, in that high-voltage environment. They brought a blend of creativity, skill, and professionalism that are the hallmarks of great marketers.”

Team member Jessica Lin reflected on the entire experience, remarking that being part of a Case Competition team “not only gives you experience for the real world but it also prepares you for the job market you’re going to enter soon after you graduate college.” She spoke of the camaraderie that developed among the students as they prepared their case over many months, saying that “working together on this project helped us get to know one another and what makes all of us unique and different, which made us all a small family in the end.”

This year’s team built upon the experiences of a group that began exploring the competition in 2016, as a way to translate their classroom learning into a real-world situation. Professor Zhang developed the Advanced Marketing Strategy course to help situate the competition as part of the curriculum in several business disciplines. The following year, entering the competition for only the second time, the team from CSI placed third overall in a competition sponsored by eBay.

As the School of Business continues to develop its emphasis on experiential learning, outstanding students looking for intensive, immersive learning experiences will be able to seek further success in the coming years. Mary Kay team member Serena Medina spoke about the personal value that accompanies these learning opportunities, saying that “the team and I spent endless nights working diligently on the case. Prior to my involvement, I never thought that eight individuals, tied together for this singular event, would become my close friends. I have high hopes for the next team that steps into our shoes.”