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By Liz Warren-Pederson

Nearly 500 undergraduate students enrolled in business communication this semester competed to design mobile apps to serve a partnership between Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.

While the business communication competition is a rite of passage for all Eller students, the case under consideration changes each semester. Thanks to support from Eller National Board of Advisors member Paul Lindsey, this particular case revolved around the nonprofit sector.

One of the winning Business Communication teams: D-16, Environment (left to right): Paul Kim, Si Chen, Spencer Elliott, Toni Careccio, and Jeffery Zurbrick.

One of the winning Business Communication teams: D-16, Environment (left to right): Paul Kim, Si Chen, Spencer Elliott, Toni Careccio, and Jeffery Zurbrick.

“This type of partnership — connecting tomorrow’s leaders with today’s business and community leaders — gives us the triple win,” said Diza Sauers, director of the Eller Business Communication program. “Our students benefit from grappling with the complexity of a real-world problem — using their own talent, creativity, and grasp of business analytics to solve the problem. Tucson community and business leaders benefit by seeing the end results our students generate, and by meeting the top talent coming out of the Eller pipeline.”

The students were challenged to explore the complex and robust data in The Southern Arizona Indicators Project and to design mobile apps that would put the data directly in the hands of the intended audience: the Tucson Community. Three finalist teams were chosen to present their mobile app concepts to area leaders on May 3.

Respectively, the teams proposed apps to help parents and students choose the right high school; connect stakeholders in consumption, testing, and tracking of Arizona water resources; and to guide expectant mothers through a first-time pregnancy.

“What inspired us to develop our app was the shocking statistic that the infant mortality rate is increasing in southern Arizona,” said Megan Sentianin, Eller MIS and Operations Management ‘13. “We also discovered that a quarter of all mothers in southern Arizona do not receive prenatal care in the first trimester, which can cause many complications.” Her team focused on educational outreach. “We also wanted to find a way to help the southern Arizona Indicators project. So we chose to include a pregnancy tracker feature, which would track the progress of the woman’s pregnancy. The tracker would collect information on their diet, exercise plans, and doctor visits. This information would then be sent back to Southern Arizona Indicators, in the hopes of collecting more data to help more women in southern Arizona.” 

Double-major Toni Careccio (Dance and Eller Marketing ‘13) was on the Arizona Waterways team. “When considering possible apps, I thought about this bar code app that scans different items, such as foods, and gives specific information regarding that food, such as the calories and ingredients,” she said. “When talking about using a bar code feature in our app, we had to keep in mind that we were testing for water quality.”

Sentianin reflected that the competition timeline — the students had three weeks to design and present their solutions — was a challenge. “But that’s how it is in the real world,” she continued. “Sometimes you aren’t given the length of a semester to create a presentation for your boss or to develop a project proposal. What I learned through this experience was to think on my feet, figure out what our target market (and our boss) needs, and to find ways to work productively with a team.”

“On behalf of all the partners and sponsors of the Southern Arizona Indicators Project, we would like to thank the Eller College and Paul Lindsey for enabling us to engage the best and brightest in our common goal of creating a more informed and engaged community,” said Clint Mabie, president and CEO of the Southern Arizona Community Foundation.

“When we learned that we were in the top three and would present to the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, I couldn’t believe it,” Sentianin said. “I am so proud to be at a college like Eller, which not only helps to prepare us for the real world, but actually gives so many opportunities to be in the real world. Winning the business communication competition and presenting our idea to the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona is an experience I’ll never forget.” 

Learn more about the Business Communication program.