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An MBA Class Project Produces Real-World Results

August 12, 2013 - 3 minute read

Brad Smith speaking with another student

Brad Smith, MBA '11

Brad Smith, 24, enrolled in Concordia University’s MBA program because of its emphasis on practical learning in a real business environment. As a result of a class assignment, he was hired by the Orange County Register while still a student to help them reach a greater online audience.

“We have had many experiences partnering with universities, but this was one of the few where we put the work into action immediately," says Lelani Kroeker, vice president of marketing and communications for the OC Register. “It was the best experience we have had working with an MBA class. We saw real results that have continued from the work the students did with our journalists."

Smith’s opportunity came during a class project in which students were challenged to help OC Register columnists maximize their online readership. The class is taught by adjunct professor Wing Lam, co-founder and head of marketing for Wahoo’s Fish Taco, who uses his extensive business contacts to give students a taste of real-world problem-solving.

“Our program emphasizes relevant, real-world experience so students discover opportunities and create value in response to that," says Bruce Hanson, director of the MBA program. “Traditional MBAs are focused on management. Ours is focused on business. Students work with a client to produce measurable results. That’s what happened in this case. Our team of students was able to double the viewing of their online pages, which is pretty significant."

The Register gave Smith and other students advertising dollars to spend to increase the newspaper’s online presence and promote its columnists.

“I got excited when I heard what we were doing," says Smith. “It’s not always that a big company asks you to help them. In the back of my mind I hoped it would lead to something more for me. I was pleasantly surprised at their receptiveness. They were eager to improve."

Smith and the other Concordia students worked directly with columnists to increase their page views and social media presence.

“They wanted to know what was working already and what they could improve," says Smith. “We analyzed our columnist’s readership and found large numbers came when he was featured on the Register’s homepage. Most of his success came from direct traffic."

To increase readership through other avenues, including search engine results and social media, Smith and his group developed a plan to include popular search phrases in appropriate articles, create relationships with other popular sites devoted to the same subject and reach out to readers via Twitter, Facebook and online promotions.

“We gave a presentation on strategies for increasing traffic which included recommendations of what to change and what their goal for online readership numbers should be," says Smith.

The result, says Lam, was that “Brad hit the presentation out of the park. The staff was mesmerized. Every company wants to hear how they can get new customers and how to get more out of their existing customers. Brad showed them how to use simple tools in an online environment to accomplish those things."

After the presentation, the Register hired Smith as a consultant.

“Brad impressed us with his strategic recommendations and approach to how our bloggers should position themselves and grow their audiences," says Kroeker. “From this presentation we brought Brad on board to implement his recommendations."

Smith earned his MBA in less than two years, graduating in May. He is now working with the Register to roll out online marketing strategies to the full newsroom. He is also working with their new entertainment portal,

“Concordia was really good for me," he says. “You can go full-time and all the classes take place at night. The costs are reasonable and the professors are business people who do these jobs on a day-to-day basis. I got to work with them on real-life case studies."

Hanson, the program director, says Smith’s experience is typical of what they hope to achieve.

“Our approach is for students to learn from experience," says Hanson. “Our faculty have significant, on-going experience in everything from catalog retailing to organizational design and international finance and consulting. Students graduate from here with substantial portfolio of accomplishments in whatever field they get into."

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