Peggy Stover, associate professor of marketing at the Tippie College of Business and director of the Undergraduate Marketing Institute, spent the last nine years working with the Office of Community Engagement on various projects that partnered students with communities in Iowa.
"We've had a blast working with the Office of Community engagement on a ton of projects," Stover said. "It's just been a wonderful experience for students who have gone through the program."
Stover said that there are many reasons for students to consider signing up for courses that include a community engagement component.
"Definitely get involved because it is an extremely rewarding experience," Stover said. "You are going to learn a lot, meet interesting people, and be introduced to Iowa communities that may be dealing with different issues that you were not aware of."
Stover always encourages her students to expand their horizons and get out of their comfort zones.
Past engagement projects have worked with community partners in Boone Forks, Webster City, Keokuk, Washington, Dubuque, and Sioux City, Iowa, with projects focused on rebranding and strategic planning related to marketing.
"I always look for a project that has sustainability components," Stover said. "That is a huge part of educating students and our way of giving back to the local community."
During this semester's 'project cycle,' Stover and her students are working with Des Moines County Conservation on a project to help attract visitors to county parks through education about amenities. Students are also helping put together a plan for the community and the board, which improves public perceptions of the parks while helping justify continued funding.
After a previous project in Maquoketa, students who were planning on presenting to their direct client also presented to the city council.
"It was a fantastic experience for the students," Stover said. "During the city council meeting, council members, the mayor, and community members were so impressed by the recommendations that the team put forth that they immediately voted to go ahead and start implementing them."
A couple of months later, the city erected a massive billboard off the highway into Maquoketa that featured new branding for the city that students had created.
"It's amazing that years later, a lot of the students that have worked on these projects still refer to them on their resumes and when they are interviewing," Stover said. "I just got a request from a student who worked on the Boone Forks project in 2019 who was interviewing for a position."
Other students who took community-engaged courses with the Undergraduate Marketing Institute benefited in interesting ways.
One student, who had worked on a sustainability project, decided several years after graduation that the traditional marketing route was not for them and went back to law school. They combined their marketing and marketing institute experience to craft a new career path that connects them both.
"She wasn't just a lawyer," Stover said. "She focused on environmental law and what she could do for the environment. As the student put it, 'I'm all for companies making a profit, but it has to be done correctly and very thoughtfully to make sure we are not jeopardizing the natural resources.'"
Stover's experience with the Office of Community Engagement began when she started at the University of Iowa.
"I valued the work that the office was doing, and I thought that engagement courses would be a fantastic way to help out smaller communities with marketing and research," Stover said.
Stover's vision for the marketing institute included having sustainability clients and described the partnership with the Office of Community Engagement as 'the perfect marriage.'
"I firmly and personally believe in it," Stover said. "It is important to students because this is a different generation. They are focused on protecting the environment, helping smaller communities, and preserving natural and human resources in the state of Iowa."
Stover encouraged faculty who may be considering community-engaged courses not to hesitate and to push past any barriers or misperceptions they may have.
"Just dive in because it is a blast," Stover said.