A culture of giving back is built into DePaul University's mission. In one marketing class at the Driehaus College of Business, that idea is also part of the curriculum.
Students in MKT 377: Fundamentals of Sales & Networking learn and practice sales concepts by "selling" for the Sid Feldman Legacy Fund, which creates scholarships for Chicago Public Schools students to attend DePaul. The fund is named after Chicago businessman Sid Feldman, who believed in the power and necessity of education.
"Through this project students not only learn to sell and to provide financial means for someone to attend DePaul, but they come to the realization that they could truly make a difference in a person's life," says Adjunct Professor Clancy Ryan (BUS '96, MBA '02), who created and teaches the class each quarter and is the director of DePaul's Center for Sales Leadership.
Early on, students in MKT 377 would pitch for DePaul's sales programs or for community partners, such as StreetWise. The class switched to promoting the scholarship fund in winter 2010 and now has a yearly goal of raising $75,000 and funding two partial scholarships.
Students Helping Students
The class introduces sales concepts and challenges students to polish their skills through individual and group work. Each quarter, students break into teams of four and are mentored by a sales team manager, a former student who completed the same class.
"It's this idea of students mentoring students who are helping students," explains Sarah Laggos (CSH '05, LAS MA '07), who began co-directing the fund while she worked at the Center for Sales Leadership. Now, despite being based in California as Director of Alumni Relations, Corporate Relations & Annual Fund Giving at Santa Rosa Junior College, Laggos remains hands-on with managing the fund from afar.
Zaharoula Asimos (BUS '12) was a sales team manager for four quarters after graduating and has helped to coach the sales team leaders and serve on the advisory board. "I came back because I truly believed in the cause, and knew the skills I learned changed me, all in 10 weeks," she says. She also appreciated how Ryan led class by example: "He showed us that you can have a corporate job and do something you love on the side, for the pure passion in your heart."
Sales team manager Semir Delic (BUS '11) also came back because he believed in the fund and the skills the class taught him. "Everything that I learned in class I was able to apply in the real world while helping other students attend DePaul," he says.
The advent of sales team managers shows how the course is constantly changing. One year when Ryan taught an MBA-level course on leading business development, he asked the graduate students how they would lead a team of undergraduates to be most successful in a similar fundraising project. That feedback was implemented into MKT 377. In addition, each quarter the sales team managers are asked to run down what does and doesn't work so that the course can continue to adapt.
Raising Quotas, Breaking Records
Just like a sales force for a company, each student in class is given a sales quota. This year the goals are higher and each student must bring in $300, with $150 raised individually and $150 raised with their teams. Within four years, the per-student fundraising average has more than doubled, from $220 in 2010 to $570 last quarter.
"We are constantly surprised at how students rise to this challenge and how they are so willing to go above and beyond when they are motivated and challenged with something they believe in," Laggos says.
Students can raise money however they see fit, usually in a combination of pitching to friends and family and running team events. Those events can be anything from special sales days at local restaurants, such as the Chipotle nearest DePaul's Loop Campus, to bake sales or other ideas. The challenge comes in picking something that can be implemented in just 10 weeks.
Learning from Each Other
Students see the difference they're making when past scholarship recipients — now DePaul students themselves — come to class and talk about what receiving the Sid Feldman scholarship meant to them.
"That is the thing that flips the light bulb on: These are real students at DePaul, and without this scholarship they would not be able to be here. I think hearing that really motivates students in the class," Laggos says.
Koemi Valencia, a current management student, says she came back as a sales team manager because "it's a great learning experience. No sales team is the same and no personality that you're managing is the same, so it's a great way to develop your skills if you want to be in a leadership role." She enjoys learning from her student sales team as much as helping them learn during the class. "Having that dual-learning relationship while keeping this amazing cause alive — helping CPS students go to college — is almost an invaluable experience."
Even as the professor, Ryan says he gains new insight from each class. "I tell the students that they'll teach me more in 10 weeks than I'll ever be able to teach them."
To learn more about the Sid Feldman Legacy Fund, visit the fund's website. Information is available there for CPS students who are interested in applying for this year's scholarships.