by Miranda Buschur
Class of 2018
As a freshman at Ohio Northern University, you are strongly encouraged to “get involved.” It’s really kind of amazing how often you hear those words during Welcome Weekend. But it turns out that it is actually very good advice, and thanks to Welcome Fest, it’s pretty easy to do.
Miranda Buschur, second from right, with her fellow AMA chapter members.
ONU has a lot of student organizations. There is literally something for everyone. I signed up for two organizations at Welcome Fest: ONU’s chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA), because that seemed to make the most sense with my major, (marketing!) and ONU’s ski club, Northern Ski and Board, because I love to snow ski.
By the end of Welcome Fest I had officially “gotten involved.” Mission accomplished. I don’t know what I expected from my first year with these organizations, but I can tell you this much: I certainly didn’t expect to get to go to New Orleans and represent ONU after only six months.
But that’s exactly what happened.
My AMA experience began casually enough. We met regularly every two weeks, and at one of our early meetings the officers in charge mentioned something about a conference they attend every year in New Orleans. By “they” I assumed they meant upperclassmen, since the members who got to go were chosen based on the points her or she accumulated through activity in the chapter.
Each activity or event we helped with or participated in for AMA was worth a certain number of points. Each meeting we attended also counted as a specific number of points. It stood to reason that the older, more involved members would be earning the most points, thereby securing their tickets to the Big Easy.
That isn’t to say that I wasn’t still interested. Meredith Fabo, our chapter president, asked that we email her if we would like to be considered for attending. So I emailed her. I also attended meetings whenever I could and tried to get involved with events and activities.
Being a freshman, I did not expect to be chosen to attend. I just wanted to do my best in the hopes of getting chosen to go my junior year or senior year.
But then this happened…
I was shocked, but also very excited. I was right to suspect that upperclassmen would go. Three of the students attending were seniors, and two more were juniors. But I was wrong to assume that I couldn’t go simply because I was a freshman.
It turned out that one of the juniors was not able to make the trip, so another student was picked and she happened to be a sophomore. I was still intimidated though, being the youngest one.
The group consisted of the six students: Meredith Fabo, Ellyn Bain, Abigail Newman, Jana Ruffini, Kelsey Trau, and me. Along with us, Professor Randall Ewing, the advisor for AMA, and his wife attended as well.
Once the group was decided, we began having more meetings with just the six of us students as well as keeping up with the regular chapter meetings with everyone in AMA every other week. Things got to be a little hectic.
The conference has a different theme every year. For 2015, the conference theme would be “AMAze Yourself!” The conference itself is made up of a bunch of different competitions and activities including a Chapter Exhibit Competition, which is kind of like a trade show where we set up a specific booth for Ohio Northern complying with the conference theme. Awards handed out for this competition included Best Use of Conference Theme, Best Chapter Exhibit and Student Choice Award. Other competitions included the SABRE Business Simulation competition, CPG Camp (marketing boot camp), and a marketing strategy competition. Along with all of these competitions, other things going on included key note speakers, luncheons, career fairs and networking opportunities.
I signed up to help with the Chapter Exhibit Competition to make the booth along with Meredith and Kelsey.
We decided to design our booth around circus theme as we imagined a ringmaster saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages! Step right up! Amaze yourself! Our booth would have things like big red and white banners to make ourselves a make-shift big-top tent, plinko games, marketing trivia about the history of circuses, a display of an elephant balancing on a ball, a carnival sign and prizes for the students.
March 10 was another big meeting for those of us going on the trip. We purchased everything we would need for the booth and entire conference. Thank goodness for coupon codes! We also determined what we would need to make for the booth.
Originally, we were going to buy a fancy banner to hang up that said, “Step Right Up, AMAze Yourself!” However, we had a hard time finding one that would be cost effective. So we began strategizing how to make this banner ourselves. When I mentioned that I could draw letters for it, everyone was excited. It made this process that much easier.
Over spring break, I purchased an absurd amount of felt and some rope to construct this thing. When we went to meet the Monday night before we left, I brought all of the felt and rope with the triangles and letters drawn out so that everyone could help me cut them out. We covered the letters in glitter, what else is expected of six girls? The following day, I came and glued them to the rope.
The rest of Tuesday was made up of meeting for different group projects, finishing last-minute homework and packing. After a short nap, we left for the airport at 2 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18. Our first flight left for Atlanta, Ga., at 6 a.m.
Personally, this was my first time ever flying, something Prof. Ewing and the rest of the girls made sure everyone was aware of. More than once, a flight attendant brought me a set of pilots’ wings from the airline.
We arrived in New Orleans at noon. We had a delicious lunch at Deuce McAllister’s Ole Saint Kitchen. I ordered the barbeque shrimp. I was caught a little off guard when I found out the shrimp still had all of its legs, antennae and eyes! The rest of the day was just spent sight-seeing and shopping around in the French Quarter. We went to Jackson Square, the French Market, Café Du Monde and other little shops around the area. The city itself was a sight to see.
Thursday morning we were up and ready to go by 8 a.m. Kelsey, Meredith and I went straight to the area where we were to set up our booth to get started. Ellyn, Abby, and Jana made their way over to the SABRE competition. The booth set-up was a complicated one, but we finished around 1 p.m.
At 3:30 p.m., Meredith and I made our way back down to the booth in our big-top costumes for the judging process. We talked to a total of three sets of judges, two judges per set.
We had to explain things like how our booth related to the theme, what would draw students into our booth, what our specific chapter all does with AMA, and how we planned to improve the chapter with time. As we were talking to the different judges some would ask what year we were in and assume we were both seniors. It surprised many of them when I explained that I was only a freshman. The experience I gained from speaking with these judges is going to be extremely helpful in future conferences and ultimately for my future career.
ONU’s booth ended up placing in two of the three categories. We earned second place in the Educational Value category and second place in the Best Use of Conference Theme category. The hard work paid off for all of us.
While we were busy doing all of this for the booth, Ellyn, Jana, and Abby completed the SABRE competition. We did not win anything in this one, but our improvement from last year’s SABRE competition was evident.
Later Thursday evening we attended the conference kick-off and presentation by keynote speaker Michael McCullough. Blaring music, confetti everywhere, people dancing and a total of about 1,700 people made quite an impression on us all. McCullough is the Executive President and Chief Marketing Officer of the Miami Heat. His talk was fantastic. He told of his climb from the bottom up, from state to state.
Once McCullough was finished, all of the chapters got to show off their booths to the rest of the people in attendance. Students roamed around the different booths participating in their games and winning prizes. At ONU’s booth, students could win key chains, Mardi Gras beads, and finger tattoos if they answered the marketing trivia questions correctly.
Later, around 10:30 p.m. or so, everyone helped tear down the booth together and repacked everything back up. Afterwards a few of us went downtown for a little while to check out New Orleans night life.
Friday morning came too soon. We were up in our business attire by 8:30 a.m. and ready to go again. From there we had our choice of what we wanted to attend.
Jana and I attended two speakers together, the first of whom was Katie Fisher, manager of fan experience for the UFC Fight Club. Fisher spoke about the steps she took to land her dream job and about women in sports management professions. The second was two representatives from The Hershey Company, Jeff Schmitz and Rachel Lewis, who are both focusing on re-launching the Take 5 candy bar brand.
Last year, these two came to the conference and asked students for their opinion and advice on what to do for the Take 5 candy bar. After implementing some of the suggested changes, they came back this year to explain the changes and to have students vote on decisions they have to make concerning the re-launch.
This session was really cool because we could see the entire rebranding process in a quick hour and it was interactive. We voted on which candy wrapper design we liked better, as well as explained why we liked one over the other to the two representatives.
Better yet, we all were given a Take 5 bar to eat.
Lastly, for me, was the Career Fair Luncheon. We ate in a ballroom with corporate recruiters set up for us to talk to if we wished. Companies like Target and Google were there. However, I had to cut my conference short due to a previous engagement in my hometown. After the luncheon I left to get picked up for the airport. However, the excitement didn’t end there.
My flight left New Orleans and landed in Dallas fine. However, while waiting for my next flight, the news station on the television in Dallas informed me that a man armed with explosives had just entered the New Orleans airport. I received several phone calls from the girls and Prof. Ewing making sure I was safe.
The experience I got from this conference is priceless, and the entire trip was so much fun. I am hoping that this experience does help to put me in a position for leadership in the near future for ONU’s chapter of AMA. As a freshman there is still a lot I plan to do.
Opportunities like this are why I am so glad I chose ONU.