When the Cottrells, Wigchers and VanHimbergens sought marketing strategies that would help them raise awareness about Catholic Relief Services among young adults, they found an ideal testing ground on the campus of Marquette University.

“Joe (Cottrell) was looking for collaboration with a business school,” according to Jesuit Fr. Nicholas Santos, assistant professor of marketing in the university’s College of Business Administration.

Last spring, the priest, a native of India familiar with the work of CRS, taught two sections of the Introduction to Marketing class.

In each section, students worked in groups of four or five to develop a CRS promotional campaign for their peers.

“Students learned about CRS,” the priest said. “Less than 10 percent knew about CRS when class started. Everybody knew about CRS at the end of class.”

The groups had motivation to immerse themselves in the class project, as they were competing for $5,000 in prize money put up by the Cottrells.

“It motivated them,” Fr. Santos said with a laugh. “They came up with some good ideas.”

Marquette’s Center for Peacemaking is “home base” for raising awareness of CRS among students. One aspect will be what Patrick Kennelly, director of the center, termed “a general marketing campaign.”

“It will let people know what CRS is and how people can become involved,” he said. “We’re creating top of mind awareness.”  

Establishing that awareness will be the work of two CRS student ambassadors who will plan events related to the organization’s work. They will utilize Facebook and a website, but they will also distribute “Be the Relief” T-shirts – one of the ideas that surfaced from the marketing students – by the end of October. When anonymous spotters see a student wearing the T-shirt, they will present him or her with a gift card.

Kennelly is working with faculty on how they can incorporate CRS case studies into their classes, and he will also be visiting a CRS site in May.

“A group from Marquette will be going to Ethiopia,” he said. They, along with Art Wigchers and a group from Cardinal Stritch Univeristy, will spend several weeks working with women on empowerment, literacy and health matters. “We will have a close collaboration with CRS,” Fr. Santos said regarding the awareness effort at MU.  Brian T. Olszewski, Catholic Herald Staff