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AMA case team advances to national finals

| Gretchen Hutterli

For the sixth year in a row, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire American Marketing Association case team has been named a finalist in the annual AMA Collegiate Case Competition. Approximately 125 universities participated in this event.

Members of the 2017-18 UW-Eau Claire team are Amanda Bower, Megan Koenig, Sydney Livingston, Jake Pederson, Lee Peterson, Haley Rockweiler, Austin Samsa, and Cooper VandWalle. Marketing professor Scott Swanson, Ph.D., is the team’s coach. Under Swanson mentorship, a Blugold case team has made it to finals six of the past seven years. Also working with this year's team are assistant marketing professors Kranti Dugar, Ph.D and Kate Kim, Ph.D.

The annual AMA case competition brings together students from across North America to work on a marketing challenge submitted by a sponsoring organization. This year’s sponsor is Mary Kay. Teams were asked to develop an integrated marketing plan to increases the number of Mary Kay independent consultants and grow sales among 18-24 year old nonusers by re-imagining, reinventing and revolutionizing the company’s personal beauty experience and beauty party.

The UW-Eau Claire team worked on the case throughout the fall semester, and submitted a written version of their plan to AMA in early December. A blind review process was used to evaluate all submissions. Finalists will present their plans to a panel of Mary Kay executives at the 40th Annual AMA International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans.

“When you compete on case team, you are taking a risk to some degree,” said Austin Samsa, a senior member of the Blugold team who has participated in the past three case competitions. “There is no guarantee that your 100+ hours of research and 40+ page paper will result in an invitation to nationals. But the fact that we were able to rise above other top universities and make it six consecutive years shows a lot about our students AND our professors,” he continued.

Other 2017-18 finalists in addition to UW-Eau Claire are British Columbia Institute of Technology; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Capilano University; CUNY-College of Staten Island; Montana State University; University of Georgia; University of Pennsylvania; and University of Wisconsin–Whitewater.

Meet Austin Samsa, Professional Sales major

The most senior member of the 2017-18 AMA case team is Austin Samsa, a senior professional sales marketing major from Suamico, Wisconsin. He joined the UW-Eau Claire team his sophomore year because he wanted his resume to stand out to prospective employers.

During Samsa's three years on the team he has learned more than just how to apply marketing concepts.

"The experience has made me more focused," he admitted. "Anyone who is tasked with balancing school, work, and extra-curricular activities will agree that time becomes valuable so you have to be more efficient in how you use it.”

The experience has also helped Samsa develop his communication skills.

“I have learned how to influence others; but more importantly, how to step aside when not needed,” he said. “I also learned how to delegate to others roles that play to their individual strengths and allow our team to work more efficiently. The experience has improved both my business writing and public speaking capabilities--two skills I will use for the rest of my life.”

Samsa, who graduates this May, will move to Fort Myers, Florida where he has accepted a sales position with Gartner, a research and advisory firm that provides information technology insight to businesses. He encourages future AMA case teams to "fail fast and succeed faster."

“I still remember my first year on the case team when everyone was a rookie and no one knew what they were doing," said Samsa. "In the beginning, we failed often but we never made the same mistake twice," he continued. "My best piece of advice is never to be afraid to ask for help. The professors at UW-Eau Claire want to see you succeed and if you show them you are willing to put in the work, they are happy to assist in any way possible."

And one last piece of advice from Samsa . . . "Remember, Dr. Swanson knows best. Listen to what he says and you’ll be just fine.” 

Members of 2017-18 AMA Case Team are; far left, starting at the bottom: Jake Pederson, Cooper VandWalle, Austin Samsa, Lee Peterson; far right, starting from bottom: Haley Rockweiler, Amanda Bower, Sydney Livingston, Megan Koenig.