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Business School strengthens student ties to industry

18 Jun 2012

In a mutually beneficial partnership that gives industry exposure to fresh ideas and students invaluable access to real world business, a cohort of undergraduate marketing students has seen industry seamlessly integrated into their studies this semester through a Business School collaboration with Cathay Pacific.

As part of Associate Professor Teresa Davis' unit of study in Consumer Behaviour, over 70 groups of undergraduate students developed marketing campaigns for the airline targeted at an 18-25 year old segment.

The most exceptional proposals were then presented to General Manager of Cathay Pacific South West Pacific, Dane Cheng, Marketing Communications Manager Australia, Richiko Olrichs and representatives from advertising agency, McCann Erickson, at the Cathay Pacific Office in Sydney's CBD.

"I believe that bringing a real, live industry project into the classroom and using it to challenge my students, is about them being academia approved and industry tested," said Associate Professor Davis, who works in the discipline of Marketing at the University of Sydney Business School.

"We know our graduates can use academic knowledge in industry application and are industry ready. It's also one of the ways the Discipline of Marketing engages directly with our friends in industry, completing the student-academic-industry link."

Second year combined Bachelor of Commerce and Laws student, Nina Khoury, emphasised that creating, designing and implementing the project was thoroughly enjoyable and pushed students beyond their comfort zone. "The project gave us the opportunity to pitch our ideas in a 'real world' environment; something which was really exciting. Our team felt engaged with the project and passionate about our ideas, as we felt employed by Cathay Pacific to pursue their objectives. It's great to know our ideas are applicable to the current market place."

General Manager, Cathay Pacific South West Pacific, Dane Cheng, visited the semester's concluding lecture to present the winning group with four airline tickets to over 42 locations worldwide. Commenting on the importance of engaging a mix of different people when deciding how to appeal to a particular segment, Mr Cheng praised the students for their originality, for mastering the art of presentation and for demonstrating real belief in their ideas.

"We want to connect with students, engage their ideas and maintain an open mind to understand how to appeal to this particular segment through the right channels, especially with new tools such as social media. We were very impressed with the high quality presentations that the students developed and I would be thrilled if in the future I got the opportunity to work with such a multicultural and diverse group of people with so many fresh ideas."

Mr Cheng invited the four groups of finalists to an exclusive half-day glimpse into the workings of the marketing department, featuring a presentation by a senior representative from Cathay Pacific's advertising agency.

The winning group's project was praised by Mr Cheng for moving beyond rational justification by sustaining a quirky, emotional touch. Second year students Nina Khoury, Morgan McBain and Samantha Karpin, were awarded first place. They designed a quiz for the Cathay Pacific website which matched travelling options to market segments by personality, preferences, interests and travelling motives; including the young executive "high flyer", the "professional partier" and the privileged "magic carpet rider".

"Connecting with the younger generation really gets our creative juices going," said Mr Cheng, highlighting the benefits of bridging industry and the classroom. "I hope we have the opportunity to continue projects such as this with the University of Sydney Business School and I hope other companies do the same, as there is much to be gained for all involved."