The Francis E. Kelley Oxford Program is an opportunity of a lifetime.
By Beth Eberth
ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — The St. Bonaventure University graduate students had only begun their summer class in England when they were invited to a conference of the Business Wealth Club of Oxford. Many of the English business executives were surprised to learn at the end of the day that the five were young graduate students and not fellow business owners.
The students, enrolled in St. Bonaventure’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program, are impressing their instructors and UK business leaders. “The Professional IMC Communication” course began with two weeks of classroom instruction at Trinity College at Oxford University, followed by several weeks of business integration seminars.
The seminars are not lecture hall presentations, but intense internships in which the students are focused on integrated marketing on a global scale as they study — and in some instances produce — marketing operations for multinational and foreign corporations.
“The graduate internships are providing some of the most significant world-class, business opportunities that I’ve seen in years,” said Br. Basil Valente, O.F.M., director of St. Bonaventure’s Francis E. Kelley Oxford and IMC programs as well as a longtime faculty member in the university’s journalism program.
The IMC students are developing a practical understanding of how entrepreneurial businesses work to transform research into commercially successful new products and services.
Daniel McCarthy and Lauren Guerrieri, who both hold undergraduate journalism degrees from SBU, are working with some of the top educators from Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Hartfordshire who have created an ambitious start-up called My First Million.
“Working with real clients has been a real eye-opening experience for us. For the first time, we are putting together plans that real people are relying on for the success of their businesses,” said McCarthy. “It’s a little bit stressful but, more than anything, incredibly exciting.”
My First Million, an online game-based learning product, is picking up steam in the UK as a vital tool for developing business and entrepreneurial skills. It combines a unique fast-track game format with a rich case library to create exciting investment simulations that put students first in the shoes of the entrepreneur and then in the seat of the investor.
McCarthy and Guerrieri are doing market research for the product and contributing to a marketing plan to be completed by the end of the month.
McCarthy participated in St. Bonaventure’s prestigious Francis E. Kelley study abroad program in 2007 as an undergraduate.
“It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, so I knew this time around would be no different. Getting to wake up each morning knowing you’re in England is an amazing feeling and this program exposes us to so many opportunities, so I’m very thankful I was able to return,” he said.
Graduate student Alyssa VanDurme is a full-time marketing and sales associate for the Aquasol Corporation in North Tonawanda, N.Y., where she’ll be able to directly apply the marketing and communications skills that are accelerating her professional growth.
VanDurme’s résumé also includes studying abroad in Australia and China, but her time in Oxford “is unlike anything I have ever had the opportunity to experience.”
“The Oxford program is very beneficial in that it places a strong emphasis on working directly with local business executives, where the students play an integral role in the organization’s marketing efforts,” she said.
For her, that’s meant providing research and consultation to two organizations in the UK — a website design team called OFEC and Opera Scotland.
Her IMC colleagues Mary Colleen Mahoney and Christopher Leonard are working for Oxford Analytica, a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a macro expert network to advise its clients on strategy and performance in complex, worldwide markets.
Oxford Analytica’s clients include world leaders and CEOs of major companies on every continent (such as the U.S. government).
Leonard’s duties include researching and developing a plan to get the company involved in social media. He and Mahoney will also be assisting in the planning of Oxford Analytica’s September conference, which will feature global topics from power shifts in the U.S. and China to sustainable growth and Europe’s financial recovery.
Leonard admits that at first he was hesitant to study abroad. But the Oxford experience has given him confidence in his abilities as an IMC student.
“We have done live client work, developing realistic goals and strategies to solve problems,” said Leonard. “The IMC course took the journalism skills I honed in my undergraduate years — the idea of observing, recording, analyzing and accurately reporting information — and expanded that to a business setting. It allowed me to gain a different viewpoint, transitioning from functioning in a newspaper setting to functioning in a corporate setting.”
The students, Valente said, are meeting the challenges of thinking critically and strategically while trying to appreciate a new culture and global business initiatives.
“Not only do our students have corporate email accounts, but their subjective project briefs give them listings of ‘responsibilities and specific deliverables’ to be accomplished by the end of the graduate internships,” Valente said.
For the students, the opportunity to be immersed in a foreign culture, coupled with the development of substantial business and personal relationships, is invaluable.
“When my time here is complete, I will leave with a stack of business cards, many new Facebook friends and numerous LinkedIn connections, which, in the marketing industry, are equally, if not more valuable than anything I could take away from a textbook,” said VanDurme.
“The network established in this program consists of some of the most wonderful, talented and intelligent people I have ever met, and to them I am so grateful for giving me the most amazing experience studying and working in Oxford,” she said.
Even the students’ two-week classroom work at Trinity was anything but traditional. The class exposed the students to live consulting with real clients, Opera Scotland and Enstone Flying Club. The marketing and business plans the students developed were better than the agency pitches the clients had received in the past, Valente said.
“Our students did tremendous work in the IMC class over here. That’s a testament to the faculty at St. Bonaventure and in Oxford. Our graduate students are wonderful business leaders and they’re terrific ambassadors for SBU in Oxford,” Valente said.
About the University: Inspired for more than 150 years by the Franciscan values of individual dignity, community inclusiveness, and service, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. No wonder U.S. News and World Report has for years considered us a “Great School at a Great Price.”