Marketing students benefit from partnership with PNC’s Mark Vizza ’98

Alumnus Mark Vizza teaching a marketing class

Every college student has been assigned a case study to research and write a report. It’s right up there with group projects and adding a works cited page.

Mark Vizza ’98 remembers them all too well, and every case study seemed to come from another era.

“It drove me crazy and I wondered to myself, ‘Did nothing of significance happen at any company in the last decade that we could look at?’ ”

As the Vice President and Marketing & Sales Support Manager for PNC Bank, member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Vizza comes across real case studies every day.

“Sometimes they are good, complex problems without a clear answer or right answer,” Vizza said.

Cue the light bulb moment. Vizza realized while speaking with Marietta College’s Assistant Professor of Marketing Julie Harding that he had the perfect case study for a class.

“The opportunity presented by Mark would be even more meaningful as students would have the opportunity to watch what was happening ‘real life’ and to make their very own recommendations accordingly,” Harding said.

Harding offered a marketing strategy class (Management 432) this fall, and she turned Vizza’s idea into a semester-long group project, involving three teams with three or four students in each.

“We divided the project into four parts due at different points in the semester,” Harding said. “We cover the concept in class and the students then apply what they’ve learned to the project.”

The four parts include, research and analysis, positioning and name, price and marketing communications plan.

“In the final week of class, they will then present all of their recommendations to Mark in formal presentations,” Harding said. “The project has been especially challenging for students, not only because they have to apply their newly learned skills to a real-life situation, but also because the product in question is one being offered to businesses — not consumers.”

Vizza said the case study involved a fintech marketing initiative with an emphasis on the competitive environment. Because the case study is current, the details are not being disclosed.

Vizza has been impressed with what he has seen so far, which included him speaking with the class during Homecoming weekend.

“I thought the skills they use in this case study are great résumé builders. These are things they can talk about in an interview and really give some depth to an answer to impress a hiring manager,” he said. “This is something that can really set apart these students from other job applicants. While Julie introduced this over the course of the year, it showed them different skills and different parts of the problem we are trying to solve.”

Vizza said he is excited to hear the student presentations, but he also hopes other alumni will considering giving back to their alma mater in a similar way in the future.

“We all chose to go to Marietta College for a reason and part of that for me was the close-knit nature of the campus, the students, the professors and the alumni,” he said. “It is great to give back, in terms of money, but helping an undergrad gain experience and helping to shape their employment future with some real-life experience, that is something I hope sticks with them for a lifetime.”

Harding agrees and is appreciative of Vizza’s contributions to the class.

“I am extremely grateful that Marietta College has generous and engaged alumni such as Mark, who are so willing to share their time and talent with today’s students,” Harding said. “From the moment he first approached me with the idea, Mark has been completely engaged and has been there to ensure that my students have what they need and that they benefit as a result of this project.”