Experiential / Reality-based Learning / April 20, 2023

Smith’s Strategic Design Fellows Team Finishes Third in AMA Competition

Smith’s Strategic Design Fellows Team Finishes Third in AMA Competition
Smith’s SDF Team (posing with WSJ representatives), starting second from left: Briana DeRosa, Raphael Ukpelegbu, Sarah Cwerner, Audrey Rapp, Will Wilt.

A Strategic Design Fellows team representing the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business tied for third place in the recent American Marketing Association (AMA) International Collegiate Case Competition sponsored by the Wall Street Journal.

The Smith team was among 10 selected (from 78 teams submitting cases) for the competition held in early April in New Orleans.

The case competition was an important experiential learning experience for the students in the SDF capstone course taught by adjunct instructor Howard Bomstein, says fellows program champion and Associate Clinical Professor of Marketing Mary B. Harms.

Teams in the course developed strategies for Wall Street Journal to better retain student subscribers to WSJ after graduation from college. The team representing the Smith School pitched their campaign to three WSJ marketing employees, including the WSJ marketing lead.

“As a student, the first impression of the Wall Street Journal is that their site is not very attractive and easy to navigate,” says Sarah Cwerner, senior communications and marketing major and president of the five-person team that represented the Smith School. "We came up with this initial idea of a library that could help organize the Wall Street Journal to be more consumer-focused and personalized.”

Over the course of six weeks, the team conducted primary and secondary research to better understand the habits and the subscription interests of the target audience, Cwerner explains. The team created a mockup of a revised website design, a rewards program and social media advertising strategies.

Cwerner also notes the judges were impressed by the visual and design components of the team’s presentation. Audrey Rapp, a senior management and marketing major and the team’s design director, developed the website, mobile app mockups and conducted UX/UI research for the project.

Rapp is a transfer student who was accepted into the Strategic Design Fellows program upon entering the Smith School. “I’ve always had more of the creative mind,” she says. “Within this project, I found that I can tie both my graphic design background and my marketing education together to develop solutions for business.” Rapp further says the SDF program prepared her to succeed in the case and completely changed her perspective of what she wants to do after graduation.

Harms launched SDF program 15 years ago, after “often hearing from marketing alums that they felt that they had a strong marketing foundation upon graduating from Smith but weren’t prepared for working closely with ‘creatives’ once they entered the marketing field.” She further notes having “seen many Smith marketing students with strong design capabilities that needed more of a creative outlet in the business school.”

In addition, Harms says she was “aware of the importance of good design in the business world from Apple’s ecosystem of well-designed products to Target’s competitive advantage in the retail industry with strong design in their stores, private label goods and the various famous designers who have created exclusive products for the retail chain.”

The SDF program is a blend of studio art and business students who take 12-15 credits as a cohort, learning strategic design principles in product, packing, interactive, retail, workplace, services as well as computer graphics programs Illustrator, Photoshop, inDesign, Figma, and app design. The capstone course focuses on developing rebranding and other strategic marketing solutions for actual businesses and nonprofits.

The executive team for Smith’s AMA chapter also attended the conference in New Orleans. President Sarah Taylor and Vice-President Ananya Khanna presented in a session on chapter planning.

Mary Beth Furst is faculty advisor for the Smith chapter and is assisted by Laura Steeg, the marketing department’s administration assistant.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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