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FLC student marketing agency takes off with new Katz School of Business funding

Students help develop strategies to drive customer traffic
Fort Lewis College’s student marketing agency, which works with businesses on marketing strategies, is expanding thanks in part to new funding. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald file)

Fort Lewis College’s student marketing agency program is beginning to expand thanks in part to the record-breaking donation made by Marc and Jane Katz last fall.

In October 2023, the Katz family donated $10.4 million to Fort Lewis College School of Business, now renamed the Katz School of Business. As part of the donation, a portion of the funds were granted to the FLC’s marketing agency program.

Last week, students presented in front of their clients and faculty members of the Katz School of Business at the Fort Lewis College Center for Innovation.

Now in its third year, the program expanded from helping one business with its marketing efforts to helping five.

Local First, O-Bar-O Cabins, J. Bo’s Pizza and Rib Co., GeekPack and Pine Needle Mountaineering all sought help from the students. Most of the owners were impressed by the students’ work, with some saying their work was better than marketing agencies they’ve paid in the past.

Program Advisor and Associate Professor of Digital Marketing Tom Miaskiewicz said one of the missions of the Katz funding is to find ways for the business school to help Durango and La Plata County organizations.

Miaskiewicz said students are able to showcase their skill set firsthand to local businesses, increasing their chances of finding employment. During the first year of the program in 2022, three of the four students involved walked out with leads on entry level jobs in the field.

“It’s a small sample size, but it’s been really successful,” he said.

Incoming Fort Lewis College Senior AJ Espindola presents her social media marketing strategy for O-Bar-O cabins during a student marketing agency presentation June 20 at Fort Lewis College Center for Innovation. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

Digital marketing is a field growing in interest among college students. According to a 2021 LinkedIn report, digital marketing was one of the top 15 most in-demand skills worldwide.

Many of the students presenting last week were not pursuing business degrees, yet still found themselves interested in pursuing the pro bono work as part of the college’s program.

A big reason behind its interest is the emergence of artificial intelligence and chatbots like Chat GPT, said Steven Elias, dean of the Katz School of Business.

Wraygen Shouldis, a 2024 FLC graduate on the team, was asked about using AI technology. Shouldis said she programmed the AI chatbot service to create the ideal Facebook post for Pine Needle Mountaineering.

She said the tool was great for checking grammar but people shouldn’t rely on it completely to write for them. She said the technology still needs human input to ensure information is factual.

Incoming senior Chloe Hammond worked as J. Bo’s Pizza & Rib Co. marketing consultant. She was tasked with developing a marketing strategy that would focus on people who moved to Durango in the last three to five years.

J. Bo’s is a well-known restaurant to longtime Durango residents, she said during her presentation, but fewer new residents may know about the restaurant. She was also tasked with finding an online medium to organize online food orders.

“It was an awesome opportunity to be a project manager, which was something I had never done before, but also to have your peers who may have different experiences and skill sets to help you,” Hammond said.

Hammond also operates the Fort Lewis College Outdoor Pursuits social media accounts. She says her experience with the student-run marketing agency has helped her understand how she can better organize social media content for the FLC department.

Other students included incoming senior AJ Espindola and 2024 graduate Martine Tsosie.

“The fact that these kinds of new platforms and new applications are used makes students interested, and I think we do a good job of preparing students at the Katz school,” Miaskiewicz said.

Miaskiewicz will be teaching multiple courses next semester about how artificial intelligence can be used in marketing.

In a survey conducted by HubSpot, a marketing software company, 64% of marketing professionals said they use AI tools in some form in their jobs, but the purpose and level of integration can vary widely.

Forty percent of marketers use it for data analysis, 39% use it for market research or summarizing written articles, and 38% use it for content creation.


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