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Partnering with a Purpose

MSMIB Team Star presented a plan for Penn Yan Rotary Club. Left to right, Hui "Spencer" Shen, Fredric Tassone, Sida "Panta" Liu, Club president Robert Schwarting, and Lin "Molan" Zhang

Install a specialty digital printing press that could produce high-quality wine labels in batches of less than 10,000. Recruit young professionals to join the Penn Yan Rotary Club. Design a new brand strategy for a food service supply company with 75 years of local history. Introduce a video game for individuals with autism through a kickoff event where the crowd will source (fund) the project. Market Hunt Country Vineyard wines to prospective new customers. Promote a study-abroad program to campus students with a video.

These are just some of the recommendations that students in a Keuka College graduate program presented Feb. 20 and 21 to local merchants and business leaders as part of Dr. Yang Zhao’s Marketing for Managers class.

The students met with leaders of local companies or non-profit organizations to assess the needs of the respective businesses, then worked in small teams to develop marketing plans to address the primary issues. Each team conducted research, interviews, surveys, and financial analysis to develop recommendations for their  clients. The students then created a formal marketing plans showcased them in Powerpoint presentations during the final week of the eight-week course.

Illustration from an MSMIB presentation to benefit Keuka's Center for Global Education.

The eight-week course is part of a one-year program where students earn a Master of Science degree in management with a focus on international business (MSMIB). The MSMIB is similar to an MBA, but with more practical application. Enrollment features a mix of American, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Lebanese students, as well as one from Lesotho.

According to Fredric Tassone of Syracuse, whose team prepared a plan to help the Penn Yan Rotary Club recruit six new young professionals each year, conducting surveys was the hardest part. However, after analyzing the data the research uncovered, the team recommended the club target new members in the 23-35 age range, one of three market segments they identified, and of the three, the one most likely to have the time and interest to join.

“We gave them the most feasible option, since they don’t have a lot of money to advertise, and with their networking focus, that’s probably the best way to build up the club,” Tassone said.

Robert Schwarting, president of the club,, said that the students provided good insights into the way they structured analysis.

A marketing image created for the Penn Yan Rotary Club by MSMIB students.

“They commented that community service—focusing on the environment, the SPCA, the youth here—is probably more important to a younger set than world peace, worldwide eradication of polio, and things like that,” Schwarting said, referring to Rotary’s international focus. The international mindset an older mentor can play in the life of a young professional was also written in a way that “gave it a little more prestige and honor,” he added.

The students also provided “a little humor,” he said, when they outlined the club’s “competition” for memberships with the Lions Club, another local service group.

“I don’t perceive us in competition, but I guess we really are,” Schwarting said.

MSMIB Team A+ waits to present their plan on ARC of Yates print shop. Left to right, Hung Do Le, Ron Burd, Ling Zhou and Mohammed "Moe" Hadair.

Zhao, assistant professor of management, indicated that working with local companies will help students build connections between theoretical knowledge and real-world problems.

She said the projects “fit in with the College’s new vision to be renowned as a global leader in experiential learning and professional practice.”

Zhao also praised the local business leaders for their willingness to offer the students “opportunities for real-world applications.”

Maya Solh of Lebanon worked with two Chinese and one American teammate to prepare a proposal recommending Buffalo Hotel Supply update its branding strategy to include a name that better reflects its emphasis in food service products and workflow design. Hosting special events, improving social media presence and engagement, and adding to the 75-year-old family-owned company’s bottom line were part of the recommendations that Vice President Ginger Bedard of Canandaigua heard at the presentation.

Buffalo Hotel Supply Vice-President Ginger Bedard, center, with the MSMIB team presenting a plan for her company, left to right, Amanda Johnson, Chung "Joe" Zhang, Bedard, Maya Solh, and Chengwen "Terrence" Zheng

Bedard remarked that company officials have not only considered dropping the word “hotel” from the brand name, but also “Buffalo,” since they actually have branches in Albany and Canandaigua, too.

Solh said that Bedard may deliver the team’s report to her brother, who is the decision-maker for the chain.

Two teams presented proposals for separate ARC initiatives, one to design a video game that teaches skills to those with autism, and another to install a specialized industrial press in the ARC print shop. Paul Miller, director of vocational education for Keuka Lake Enterprise, at ARC of Yates, attended both presentations and was so pleased with the findings, he invited them to present their work again to the ARC Board of Directors.

The ARC has been weighing whether it would be wise to take out “some rather significant loans,” Miller said, to purchase an industrial Epson digital printer that can produce high-quality wine labels in runs of less than 10,000 at average costs of less than 10-cents each.

Image provided to MSMIB team, courtesy Epson

Miller said the student investment in canvassing the local wineries to research the market, gauge interest in a potential product offering of that kind, and crunch the financial numbers was “very helpful.” Students also recommended that such a machine could also produce labels for juice, cheese and other foods and even business stationery.

Moe Hadair, a member of the team presenting to ARC of Yates print shop.

Mohammed “Moe” Haidar of Lebanon worked with teammates on the digital printer marketing plan and described the team’s door-to-door interviews with local wineries as “ very strong market research—-it’s not theoretical or from the Internet. It was really physical research.”

“We really liked the idea that the organization is a non-profit one,” Hadair said, adding winery staffers were appreciative that international students were representing the ARC of Yates and that it might be possible to contribute to charity at the same time as they reduce their expenses and increase profits.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he said.

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