Opening Doors of Learning

PROVO, Utah – Oct 16, 2020 – As COVID-19 forced businesses to reevaluate how they operate in times of crisis, the normal practice of college students traveling to companies around the world to complete internships became untenable. However, in the midst of a global pandemic, the Marketing Lab at the BYU Marriott School of Business reinvented itself to help students have meaningful internship experiences. As students remotely worked on projects in the lab, they developed their skills and helped clients find the insights needed in an ever-changing and fast-moving world.

Earlier this year, Matt Madden, director of the Marketing Lab, and Eljay Robertson, a BYU Marriott second-year MBA student and student president of the lab, recognized a need for marketing students to gain professional experience during this challenging time. The lab usually shuts down for the summer so that students can complete internships around the country. However, in this unusual summer when many internships were no longer possible, Robertson worked with a leadership team of five other students to find work opportunities that could enable the lab to remain open.

“Right before the summer started, as leaders of the marketing lab, we decided to keep our doors open and find clients so that students with canceled internships would still have opportunities to obtain the valuable marketing experience necessary to build their résumés,” says Robertson, a native of Rexburg, Idaho. In the lab, student employees could work under the supervision of professors to conduct research, find new insights, and help brands perfect their marketing strategy.

Even though the Marketing Lab had not planned on staying open for the summer, faculty and student leaders were able to use their networks to identify projects to tackle. “The students in the lab definitely leveraged the BYU Marriott network to find clients,” says Robertson. “Professor Madden and I had also talked to clients about doing projects in fall semester, so we reached out to these clients to see if they could move up their timelines.”

As they secured clients for summer projects, Madden and Robertson also opened the doors of the lab to all students in the marketing major. “Usually students have to be hired into the Marketing Lab to participate. Since the need for experience was so great, we decided as a leadership team to open our doors for anyone who wanted to work with us,” says Robertson. “Some new people who had never worked in the lab before joined us this summer.” The lab tackled six different projects with twenty student employees from the marketing and MBA programs.

Working remotely, communicating with clients, and training new students required everyone in the lab to become more adaptable. “As student employees and student leaders, we had to learn how to be more flexible in how we communicated. Adapting to new communication methods helped us stay in the loop and be present and responsive to our clients’ changing needs,” says Robertson. “Projects changed weekly because of the pandemic, so all of our student employees made sure to plan ahead and be proactive to make every project a success.”

Besides teaching how to adapt to new and difficult circumstances, every client gave students an opportunity to complete tasks similar to those that they will complete in their future careers. “Our student groups worked on projects that represented a wide variety of marketing tasks and skills,” says Robertson. “Some of the lab’s projects included brand positioning and product positioning for tech products. The lab also worked on pricing initiatives for a couple of different companies in both the wholesale industry and the insurance industry.”

Students also learned communication strategies that will help them as professionals. “Many of our clients were executives or other high-ranked people within their companies,” says Robertson. “Students learned about the levels of responsibility and professionalism needed to respect the time of these people who have busy lives. As leaders in the lab, we wanted to teach the students how to communicate effectively and ensure that they made the best use of their clients’ time.”

At the end of the summer, students were grateful for the valuable lessons that they learned over the summer, and clients found the students’ professional-quality work impressive. “Everyone in the lab who was involved over the summer expressed satisfaction with their experience,” says Robertson. “All the clients whose projects the lab tackled were amazed by how flexible and responsive all of the students were to their needs.” 


Students working in the BYU Marketing Lab
Students work in the BYU Marriott Marketing Lab. Photo courtesy of Eljay Robertson

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kenna Pierce