URI business students survey the market to provide valuable market research for R.I. businesses

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 26, 2014 — At the University of Rhode Island’s 90-year-old College of Business Administration, some of the undergraduate students are taking to the streets with their lessons.

These up-and-coming business innovators, problem-solvers and leaders are learning more by doing what they’ve studied — conducting market research in the field to answer business questions for local companies.

Assistant Professor of Marketing Stephen Atlas has already become well known at URI for his fresh teaching style and approach with students and local companies. Since he joined URI last year, Atlas has invited local companies and organizations to become “clients” of his marketing research classes to get answers for some of their fundamental marketing questions.

This fall, WaterFire Providence, the BIG NAZO performance group, Lobster.com and Performance Research are among those organizations receiving the attention of these young business scholars.

“After vetting the companies and reviewing the questions they are asking at the start of the semester, I share the potential clients with the classes. Students choose to work with one of the companies, or they may propose their own topic,” Atlas explained. “Then we build on what we learn in class to define the information needed to solve the business problem, develop a study design, collect data and report what we learn to the organization.

“Students are thrilled to apply what they’ve studied to real-world business problems. It helps highlight that the methods they’re learning provide real value to new or existing organizations or companies,” he said.

The students walk away at the semester’s end with direct experience and the satisfaction of helping a Rhode Island business accomplish its marketing goals. The company walks away with answers to the questions they asked and often some they hadn’t imagined.

“I’m glad there was a chance to mix URI Marketing Students with BIG NAZO Creatures and the Cosplay Comic Con crowd,” said Erminio Pinque, the founder and artistic designer of BIG NAZO LAB, the international performance group of visual artists, puppet performers, and masked musicians. “We’re genuinely interested in seeing the feedback they collected and invite them to share their marketing analysis and evaluations
of the experience.”

Sticking with the BIG NAZO Creatures wasn’t too difficult for the student researchers – even at a Rhode Island Convention Center filled to capacity with a host of costumed characters. Students Jake Platt, from Mt. Laurel, N.J.; Sarah Bradshaw, from Norwalk, Conn.; Andrew Hetzel, from North Easton, Mass.; and Miranda Fallon from Westerly, spread out through the lobby to engage Nazo audience members with their carefully researched and approved list of questions.

“We were able survey about 80 subjects and still had the chance to experience our first Comic Con and BIG NAZO performance,” said Platt. “Overall, this was a great experience, and now we really look forward to analyzing the data and presenting our results.

“This was not something we ever pictured ourselves doing as part of a marketing class!” he added.

According to Atlas, other research projects last year included interviews with local business owners for Kimberly-Clark, a Performance Research project to learn how companies can sensitively sponsor the Boston Marathon; and 4Emily.org surveys of college students about social media use and drinking to identify best points of intervention.

Pictured above

AN EYE FOR MARKETING: Shown here, Sonia Grace and son Ian are being surveyed by URI business student Jake Platt from Mt. Laurel, N.J., as one of the BIG NAZO creatures tries to take a peek.

ALL EYES: Comic Con participant Alyshea Dobo is surveyed by URI business student Sarah Bradshaw from Norwalk, Conn., as one of the BIG NAZO creatures tries to add its opinion.

BIG RESEARCH: There’s nothing comical about these researchers, URI business students Sarah Bradshaw from Norwalk, Conn., Andrew Hetzel from North Easton, Mass., and Jake Platt from Mt. Laurel, N.J., stand ready to survey audience members on behalf of the BIG NAZO performance group at the Comic Con event held in Providence.