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Marketing the Serendipity Center: A real-world class project

It's one thing to take what you're learning in class and apply it immediately to your "real world" job and life. But imagine the additional pressure of having that "real world" application occur right in your classroom.

That's what the members of Earle Broadbent's Principles of Marketing class experienced when they took on an actual client, the Serendipity Center, during fall term 2012. In addition to being a Marylhurst adjunct instructor, Broadbent is a corporate buyer of global commodities with Warn Industries.

The eight-member class team accepted the task of helping the Serendipity Center, a Portland, Oregon-based, private, non-profit therapeutic school for children who suffer from behavioral and mental health challenges, build strategies to increase visibility and expand funding so that the school can serve more students in need. For a few of the Marylhurst students who never had been exposed to marketing before, the prospect was, in the words of one student, "overwhelming but exciting."

With Broadbent's guidance and encouragement, the students rose to the challenge. In just a few short weeks, the marketing students completed a number of complex assignments, including:

  • Learning more about Serendipity, its students, donors and other advocates, including uncovering some misperceptions about the school that need to be addressed in future communications and outreach
  • Exploring competition and trends in Serendipity's specialized business
  • Recommending partnerships and promotional efforts that could have both short- and long-term benefits in terms of bringing more students to the school and generating more private support

In early November 2012, the team met on Marylhurst's campus with Serendipity's executive director and board of directors to present a more than 60-page report and set of recommendations for improving the school's market share and presence. The recommendations – which ranged from offering regular tours of the center to key school district staff to developing a stronger website and social media presence – were heavily focused on aligning limited resources to target key audiences most efficiently and effectively.

The Serendipity board of directors and executive director lauded the students' work, as did Marylhurst Department of Business & Leadership Chair David McNamee, who sat in on the final presentation.

"This was a perfect model for what we try to do in our Marylhurst business programs – use a real-world project as a laboratory for dynamically teaching a topic," McNamee said. "The students designed a scope of work and hit every milestone, while meeting every learning objective of the course along the way. And they provided a valuable service to a worthy organization, outcomes that will last far beyond the end of the term.

"This truly was an example of community service and partnership at its best."

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