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Eller Project Boosts Casa de los Niños Online Presence
A joint UA and ASU team will compete globally against more than 3,000 other teams in the Google Online Marketing Challenge.
An undergraduate team of Flinn Foundation Scholars has moved on to compete globally in the Google Online Marketing Challenge after blowing away judges for its campaign to boost visits to the Casa de los Niños website and increase volunteers for the Tucson area non-profit organization.
The team, Flinnovation, is made up of students enrolled in the University of Arizona Eller College of Management's MIS, or management of information systems, class taught by McClelland professor Sudha Ram. The team is comprised of three UA honors students – Ravi Ram, Teddy Ware and Daniel Fried, who teamed up with Ryan Lane, Hugh Chung and Nikil Selvam, who attend Arizona State University.
Fried is a computer science and math major, Ware is a MIS and math major with minors in Spanish, Chinese and Arabic, and Ravi Ram is a molecular and cellular biology and math major, with minors in computer science and Portuguese.
Professor Ram's MIS business intelligence course, a mostly graduate student class, helps students better understand how web analytics, data warehousing design, implementation, utilization and marketing improve outcomes for companies.
"I teach students how to leverage, use and harness social media, and part of the class is to be able to implement what is learned in a real-world scenario," Ram said.
It is the fourth year of the Google competition, but the first year that Google has allowed students to work with non-profit companies. Professor Ram had students in her class enroll in the competition for the first time last year, and this year, 12 teams in the MIS class competed with one another for the chance of a global run-off.
For the competition, Google provides the student teams with $200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords. The teams then work with local businesses to devise effective online marketing campaigns.
Teams outline a strategy, run a campaign, assess their results and provide the business with recommendations to further develop their online marketing skills. The results are based on final presentations and reports students submit that are judged by a panel of independent judges.
Members of the Flinnovation team knew one another from the Flinn Scholarship program and agreed to work on the campaign when Bill Finley, the marketing director from Casa de los Niños, connected with professor Ram upon hearing about the Google competition.
Casa de los Niños offers a variety of programs designed to prevent child abuse and to care for children who have already been abused. It also offers a crisis shelter safe haven for abused, neglected and at-risk children younger than 12 and 100-plus foster homes that care for more than 140 children.
Finley worked with the students to identify areas of Web-based need or improvements that were in-line with the Casa de Los Niños mission to recruit volunteers, increase donations for their wish list, raise awareness of the website and to promote the Nights for Children campaign.
"The existing Casa Website was great but the struggle has always been to direct people to it and once there, to ultimately get the visitors to act," said Ravi Ram.
With members of the team working in Tucson and Phoenix, the team met via Skype and used other social media such as Facebook and a blog to communicate with one another and with Professor Ram.
Casa de Los Niños saw big improvements in all areas of need over a three week campaign devised to test the student's efforts.
The team drew glowing reviews from the panel of judges – a group of Web-based business experts – and has just finalized and submitted a report to Google for the global competition in July.
"I have been teaching for more than 20 years, and I was blown away by these students. None of them is a business major but they were so enthusiastic about working for Casa de Los Niños. What really worked for them was their passion," Ram added.
Said Fried: "We were already good friends before the competition and now we are even closer. We owe a lot to professor Ram and Casa de Los Niños for letting us work with them."