Tackling Real-World Marketing Challenges

Spotlight on the Senior Capstone Experience
Radames Gonzalez speaks during the senior Capstone presentation.

For students in Paul College’s business administration marketing option, the senior Capstone experience is an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a major consulting project.   

As part of the Marketing Workshop Capstone Course, teams of seniors spend the semester working on real-world marketing problems for businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. These teams conclude their semester with final presentations to their clients.   

In addition to educational purposes, the experience is an opportunity for students to make a meaningful impact on businesses across New Hampshire and Maine, including ones close to campus.   

Six seniors, Ada Diyenno, Radames Gonzalez, Avery Joensuu, Ryan Maki, Maeghan McGraw, and Olivia O’Connor, worked with the Southern District YMCA in Exeter during the fall 2023 semester to develop better strategies to increase exposure and attract more donors.   

“Our group was unique because none of us really knew each other well, but we picked up on each role and just worked so well together,” McGraw said.   

Senior Capstone Group.

The students took a survey to determine their groups and roles, ensuring that each group had individuals with different research skills. For this group, their professor recommended choosing a business with whom one of the members had a personal connection.    

“He saw that we had personal connections to our industry, given that Maeghan lived in Exeter, he said you should do business in Exeter,” Gonzalez said.    

Gonzalez and Joensuu oversaw quantitative research on the team, while McGraw led the creative aspects of the project.   

To start their research, the students distributed a survey in Exeter with questions regarding preferences on what the people value in a community center. They compiled the data from the survey and made an initial presentation of their findings to the YMCA. However, early feedback indicated that their strategies were familiar to the YMCA.   

“We presented this data thinking it would point us in the right direction, but when we asked how they felt about us starting these ideas, they said that they had already tried, and it didn’t work,” Joensuu stated.     

Following the midterm, the group worked on redesigning and modifying their original strategies to achieve better results for their final presentation. They spent a lot of time together and bonded in and out of the classroom.    

“It was really rewarding watching us grow together; we would meet with each other on days we didn’t even have to... we just had a lot of fun with it,” Mcgraw said.    

Ultimately, all the hard work paid off.    

The team produced a successful final presentation, with the YMCA implementing some of the student’s recommended strategies, including a more visible donation button on the YMCA website homepage to highlight the organization's role as a charity and recommendations to improve its search engine optimization (SEO).   

Michael Boland, director of marketing and development at the YMCA, expressed appreciation for the students’ efforts.   

“We had a great experience working with the team. They were very professional in how they conducted themselves and how they approached our business challenges,” Boland said. 

Reflecting on their learning experience, the team emphasized their growth in two key areas: mastering collaboration skills and applying their classroom knowledge in a real-world business setting.  

“This experience showed me firsthand that it’s important to prove you’re an asset to a company and how to be more personable. It just made me feel more secure about my future,” McGraw said.    

Other fall 2003 Capstone clients included: 

  • Clarena’s Coffee (Laconia, NH): Marketing of coffee grown in Colombia by women farmers.  
  • Point Break Management (Hampton, NH): Vacation home rentals in southern Vermont. 
  • Women’s Wellness Exchange (Chichester, NH): Women entrepreneurs holistic health providers' network.  
  • Garden of the Moon (Dublin, NH): Marketing of women’s cycle-support herbal teas.  
  • Paul College MS Accounting (Durham, NH): Promotion of MS accounting degree and financial leadership pathway. 
  • Wood Island Life Saving Station (Kittery Point, Maine): Marketing of renovated offshore island station as museum and event venue.  
  • Drink Wholesome (Gilford, NH): Marketing of protein powder drink for sensitive stomachs.  
  • Wentworth-Douglass Hospital (Dover, NH): Campaign to recruit nurses for this Mass General community hospital.  

Spotlight compiled by Anya Carver '25