Students in Pitt Business Professor Kiersten Maryott’s Services Marketing course teamed up with two local start-up organizations, Community Forge and Pittsburgh Learning Commons, to use business principles to make a positive influence on the community.
“Having the support of a class at Pitt Business can make a large impact upon a start-up organization like ours, where we do not already have large marketing teams or budgets,” says Jackie Cameron, co-executive director of Pittsburgh Learning Commons and co-founder and communications chair of Community Forge.
Community Forge is an inclusive community space in Wilkinsburg that is dedicated to creating opportunities for the community. The Pittsburgh Learning Commons is an educational nonprofit that offers after-school and summer programs that are hands-on and integrate STEM education.
“Not only did this class offer a chance for our organizations to gain help, but given our learning-oriented mission at Pittsburgh Learning Commons, we saw this as a benefit for the Pitt students as well,” Cameron says.
Throughout the semester, the class formed teams that researched and developed creative ways for the organizations to be sustainable in the community long-term. They provided support in three areas: fundraising support for special projects, strategic marketing planning, and creating communication strategies and deliverables.
“Experience-based learning is a core component of the educational journey here at Pitt Business,” Marketing Professor Kiersten Maryott says. “Research shows that active learning greatly increases retention. If we can provide that active learning through service-learning, benefitting our community, it is a clear win-win situation for all involved.”
This project allowed for students to see the benefits of experience-based learning.
“This project taught me how to effectively communicate with multiple groups of people: my teammates, Dr. Maryott, and Jackie at Pittsburgh Learning Commons and Community Forge,” says Rachel Hannum (Sophomore – Supply Chain Management & Marketing). “Constant communication and asking the right questions were crucial to ensure that my team and I were achieving the objectives of our project.”
The project also gave students the opportunity to bring what they learned “From the Classroom” to their future careers.
“Working with Community Forge/Pittsburgh Learning Commons allowed me to take what we’re learning in the classroom and apply this information to help benefit a real client and a real business,” Sarah LaVelle (Senior – Marketing) says. “By having this interaction with a client, I was able to learn some of the same business skills from an internship or job, and it really helped me to take my education one step further.”
Even after the semester came to an end, the students’ research and development will be used by Community Forge and Pittsburgh Learning Commons for years to come.
“Their work will be used beyond this course,” Cameron says. “Already, we have begun to implement ideas and materials developed in the class for our upcoming projects, including camp flyers and a social media events campaign.”