By Alison Trautmann
The past fall semester gave Marywood marketing students in a retail management course the chance for hands-on experience. Students were given the opportunity to use the Mall at Steamtown as a classroom in order to learn about retail.
Every other week the students would go to the mall in order to complete an assignment. They would hear a presentation about some specific element of mall operation or retail. After the presentation students would form teams and go out into the mall in order to complete an assignment. By observing how the mall operated and speaking to managers and sales associates about different topics, such as store image and marketing strategies, the students gained a deeper understanding about how a mall operates. After each mall visit, the teams of students would report back to the class on what they had learned during their assignments.
Dr. Gale Jaeger believes that “being able to use the mall as a classroom was a wonderful opportunity and that there were major benefits to being in a mall setting rather than a classroom. It was more effective for students to learn about something first hand rather than looking at pictures in a book.”
The students did not concentrate solely on the Mall at Steamtown; they also compared and contrasted the different malls. By looking critically at the Steamtown, Viewmont, and Montage malls, the students gained an understanding about what worked and did not work with regards to marketing strategies and appearance.
Lindsay Jacob, a student of Dr. Jaeger, remarked that the class “gave us lessons that were not only unobtainable in a classroom setting but fun and exciting. It was great to go off campus and hear from people in jobs that we are all looking get into. Personally I appreciated how well prepared and thoughtful everyone who spoke to our class was. They were genuinely interested in speaking to us and answering any types of questions we had whether it be about their every day job roles to salary questions.” John Siddons also said that the class was a “great experience. This was a rare opportunity to get involved with the people behind the scenes that keep the mall in operation.”
The fall is usually a very busy time for malls but the mall workers were still willing to speak with the students. Dr. Jaeger hopes to continue the program in following years. “To have them at the mall where they can see things that are being discussed in class makes the whole course come alive.”