Niagara University students Alexis Ziman, Cristina Ruiz, DaShawna Levert, Rachael Veronda, Baillie Latour, Beth Moran, Amy Breslin, Garrett Gardner, Olivia Copeland, and Julia Holcomb at the AMA Rochester Collegiate Relations 6th annual Collegiate Conference.

Several Niagara University food and consumer packaged goods marketing students sharpened their business skills by participating in case competitions at two conferences held in February.

At the AMA Rochester Collegiate Relations 6th annual Collegiate Conference, Feb. 22, seniors Olivia Copeland, from Newfane, N.Y.; Garrett Gardner, from Tonawanda, N.Y.; and Baillie Latour, from Rochester, N.Y., competed against student teams from Rochester Institute of Technology, St. John Fisher College, and SUNY College at Brockport to develop a B2B inbound strategy for First American Equipment Finance, one of the largest leasing companies in the U.S.

“The Rochester AMA was a great experience to learn about local companies in the marketing field and put our marketing skills to the test,” said Copeland.

“Being able to work with my classmates and compete against some of the best local schools was awesome,” Gardner added.

The three students, joined by Amber Thiel, a senior from West Valley, N.Y., then traveled to San Diego for the National Grocers Association Foundation Student Case Competition, Feb. 24-27, where they presented strategies to help Stepherson’s Superlo Foods, an eight-store, family-run chain in Memphis, Tenn., hire and retain millennial and multicultural associates.

“My group and I gathered for months gathering information, building our presentation, developing a video, and memorizing our parts,” said Copeland. “Our presentation … discussed background, demographics, recommendations, and financials.”

The team made it to the semi-finals of this national contest in its first year of participation, competing against teams from St. Joseph’s University and Western Michigan University.

“Judges and industry onlookers walked away impressed with Niagara University’s presentation and grasp on a key industry issue of multicultural millennial labor retention,” said Alan Stock, director of the Food Marketing Center of Excellence and Faculty Fellow at Niagara.

The students also were able to network with industry professionals from companies including Kellogg’s, Mondelez International, and Harp’s Foods, and meet career counselors to gain greater insight into career opportunities in the field.

“The experience was valuable because we were able to network with people in the food industry, which has really helped me make connections as I approach graduation this May,” said Latour, who noted she never realized how large the grocery industry was. “I also really enjoyed presenting the case study for a real company, knowing that they truly cared about our ideas.”

Gardner noted that he gained greater insights on the food industry beyond Western New York at the conference, which helped him to realize “how large and powerful the food industry is,” while Thiel discovered a new avenue for her career. “I learned a lot about the NGA and what they do for the independent grocer, as well as food policy,” she said. “I ended up applying for a position with them because of the work they are doing.”

Niagara University

Founded by the Vincentian community in 1856, Niagara University is a comprehensive institution, blending the best of a liberal arts and professional education, grounded in our values-based Catholic tradition. Its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Education, and Hospitality and Tourism Management offer programs at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral level.

As the first Vincentian university established in the United States, Niagara prepares students for personal and professional success while emphasizing service to the community in honor of St. Vincent de Paul. Niagara’s institutional commitment to service learning has led to its inclusion on the President’s Honor Roll for Community Service every year since its inception in 2006, and its recognition with the Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement.