Students Put Market Research to Work for Lackawanna Heritage Valley Projects

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Hands-on projects have always been a mainstay for Dr. Kim Daniloski, Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Kania School of Management, so when Lackawanna Heritage Valley (LHV) approached her with the idea of using local projects as the source of topics for her Marketing Research course, she jumped at the opportunity. This spring, students in Daniloski's classes were charged with designing and executing qualitative and quantitative studies for clients who are the University's neighbors and partners. Linda Mlodzienski CPA, LHV Director of Operations and adjunct professor in the Kania School, worked with Daniloski to design research projects related to three live study subjects: Scranton’s Iron Furnaces, the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, and Scranton’s Half Marathon. Early in the spring semester, Linda and other representatives from LHV, together with leaders of the three projects, presented their research needs to Dr. Daniloski’s students, who then submitted their preferences.

Amanda Sonzogni, Marketing and Entrepreneurship major and Business Club president, who had run her first half marathon two years ago, immediately knew she wanted to help the organizers of the Scranton Half Marathon evaluate the success of their inaugural race. Sonzogni and her team created qualitative and quantitative studies designed to address the needs of their client. They interviewed runners at several locations and sent questionnaires, assessing participants’ satisfaction with pre-race events as well as race-day elements like water stations and the course itself.

“Professor Daniloski encouraged us to focus on what the client needed, which for the Half Marathon was to figure out what they would need to change for the next year,” Sonzogni said.

Sonzogni said she and her team were motivated to work hard because they knew their work mattered, and they were happy to deliver significant findings from their studies to their client at the end of the semester presentations.

Similarly, Maggie Bannon, a Marketing major and Clarks Summit native, felt that she and her team were inspired by the real-world implications of their project. Bannon chose to study the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail and its visitors. She and her team were tasked with discovering who is using the trail and how. They conducted surveys of visitors at trail heads, talked with customers at the Scranton Running Company, and even polled University of Scranton students.

“It was interesting,” Bannon said. “We found out that a lot of Scranton kids had never heard about it, but 88% were definitely interested in using the trail after we told them about it, because the trail is a nice flat run.”

Bannon admitted that she had never heard about the trail despite growing up in the area but has since used it and taken friends there. Based on their findings, she and her team were able to make some recommendations to their client.

“We suggested some events that would bring more people to the trail. For instance, a 5K followed by a dance or a barbecue at the trail head.”

Chris Cacioppo, a Marketing and Electronic Commerce major, felt inspired by the passion of Michele Dempsey, President of dxDempsey, a Scranton architecture firm working on bringing new life to the Iron Furnaces.

“[Michele] really wants to change the city. This is cool because somebody really cared about what we were doing.”

Cacioppo and his team surveyed both University students and locals and found the vast majority would like to see a bar and a restaurant at the Iron Furnaces. But Cacioppo noted this information was easy to determine using a questionnaire but was not as helpful as what he and his team found from their one-on-one interviews of locals and University students.

“From our qualitative study we also found that they want these things, but [the Iron Furnaces] needs to have something that brings everybody together. The city has bars, restaurants, all those things,” he said. “This needs to stand out.”

Owen Worozbyt, Director of Community Engagement for LHV, was pleased with the students’ findings and reported that a lot of the research was valuable to his organization and to the committees responsible for the three initiatives. But the relationship had benefits for all parties, according to Worozbyt.

“This collaboration gave a lot of students the opportunity to learn more about their own backyard,” Worozbyt said.

Dr. Daniloski also viewed the assignment as mutually beneficial. Students who participated were able to practice the research methods she teaches and prove their aptitude to future employers, all the while serving the greater Scranton community.

 “I think it was great to be able to engage in a service learning type of project,” Dr. Daniloski noted. “It really does connect with the Jesuit mission of the school. I was so happy that LHV were able to be our client.”