When a corporate partner joins forces with a higher education institution like Saint Peter’s, the potential positive outcomes are limitless. Students of the Frank J. Guarini School of Business had the opportunity to experience some of these benefits firsthand when the School joined forces with Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, to develop an experiential learning collaboration.
Latinos are currently the largest minority group in the U.S. with a population of around 62 million and purchasing power close to $2 trillion. These statistics would make the U.S. Latino market segment equivalent to the third largest Spanish speaking country in the world behind Mexico and Spain, and second only to Mexico in population. About 5.5 million Latinos live in New York and New Jersey. It follows that there is an increased demand for professional communicators who understand how to reach this market-segment using integrated marketing communications strategies and tactics.
Saint Peter’s consistently seeks to provide students with real-world experiences, but as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) with an incredibly diverse student population, what better way to educate students on reaching this significant market than to partner with a global brand like Goya. Goya Foods, which is headquartered in Saint Peter’s backyard in Jersey City, New Jersey, was also interested in incorporating a younger voice into its marketing to reach the newest generation. Thus a partnership was born.
The Saint Peter’s and Goya Foods experiential learning collaboration involved a course for the fall 2022 semester that was co-taught by sociology faculty member Alex Trillo, Ph.D., and business faculty member Joseph Charleman, D.B.A. The course was titled, “Latino/a Marketing, Communication & Culture,” and in contrast to most marketing courses, it began with developing an understanding of Latino consumers. The course covered the impact of culture, socio-economic differences, trends within Latino communities and more.
The second unique aspect of the course is the project-based collaboration with Goya Foods. Following five weeks of classwork on the principles of marketing and Latino consumers, the course transitioned to team projects focused on selecting Goya products and segments of the Latino population. The teams, which included four to five students, used their knowledge from their coursework to develop marketing plans. The marketing plans were ultimately presented to Goya Foods marketing professionals in a case competition and prizes were awarded to the top achievers.
“To me, the best part was getting students engaged in the research process,” explained Dr. Trillo. “In this experience they learned how to create surveys, collect and analyze different kinds of data and make decisions that were both empirically and theoretically informed. That’s good for their resumes, but also for developing critical thinking skills that apply to other areas of their lives.”
Noelle Sprenkle ’23, a marketing major at Saint Peter’s, was one of the participants in the program and was selected following an interview and application process.
“This program presented such a unique opportunity for the students involved because we had the ability to work one-on-one with the managers from Goya Foods with real products that are currently in the market,” she explained. “It was so interesting to learn about how Goya’s products vary based on the countries in which they originate and the different cultures that the products are designed for.”
This was not Sprenkle’s first unique experience during her time as a student in the Frank J. Guarini School of Business. In her years at Saint Peter’s she served as a marketing intern for Aramark, had a summer internship with PSE&G and participated in the Goldman Sachs Local College Collaborative.
Regardless, she had a number of positive takeaways from her participation in the Goya experiential learning collaboration. She enjoyed the time she and her fellow students spent touring the massive Goya Foods facilities and trying the company’s wide-range of products. She also learned about the distribution process from the product managers and how the company maintains consistency for products that are manufactured overseas.
The representatives from Goya Foods who were involved in the program also found the Saint Peter’s partnership to be incredibly valuable.
“The student teams were very enthusiastic and provided us with unique and creative ideas on how the Goya brand can better resonate with a younger consumer base,” said Aleks Nestorovic, marketing manager for Goya Foods. “We look forward to keep evolving our partnership with Saint Peter’s and are confident it will continue to be successful moving forward.”
The Frank J. Guarini School of Business plans to continue to develop and offer opportunities like the Goya program partnership. The program is a prime example of the mission statement of the School, which seeks to offer, “impactful and transformative learning experiences that provide opportunities for service, experiential learning, and community engagement, with an emphasis on professional skills development, career pathways and establishing the foundation for lifelong learning.”