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International Clarkson MBA students learn while doing Bassmaster research

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POTSDAM - A group of six international Clarkson University MBA students are casting a wide net to determine how a recent national fishing tournament on the St. Lawrence River affected the local economy.

A record-setting 34,100 people descended upon the village of Waddington, a half hour north of Clarkson, from Aug. 8 to 11, to cheer on anglers competing in the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament and attend a free family festival.

St. Lawrence County officials who helped plan the event want to go beyond anecdotal information on how such tournaments spur investment in local hotels, restaurants and stores. So Patricia McKeown, executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, turned to Clarkson.

“Clarkson’s School of Business has an impeccable reputation for analyzing systems and making recommendations for business change,” McKeown said. “How do you know when you’re bringing a tourism event to an area that it’s going to be successful? We don’t know that unless we analyze the hard data and that’s why we turned to Clarkson. We’re lucky to have them.”

The Clarkson student team surveyed 115 businesses and vendors in Waddington and as far away as Potsdam, Massena, Ogdensburg and Canton during the four-day event. The survey inquired as to whether the businesses, which ranged from gas stations, restaurants and clothing stores to sporting goods shops and motels, saw an uptick in visitors during the tournament, compared to their regular customer base. The data will be analyzed over the next couple of months and released by November.

The project was a chance for the international MBA students to experience American culture and commerce. Some of the students, like Uday Munjuluri of Visakhapatnam, India, had just arrived to Clarkson from overseas a month earlier.

Working with American business owners so early in the MBA program was a confidence booster and good preparation for entering the global marketplace, Munjuluri said.

“This will expose us to the people of America so that in the long run, we feel more comfortable to talk to them,” he said. “We are ready to tackle any challenge.”

Caylie Duan of Taipei, Taiwan, appreciated the willingness of local businesspeople to complete the survey.

“People here are really nice. They are really kind to us. They’re really glad to provide us with the information that we need,” she said.

Shashikant Ingale of Pune, India, agreed.

“It’s a great opportunity to get into the field right away,” he said.

The partnership between the county chamber and Clarkson is a win-win for both the community and the students, according to School of Business Dean Dayle Smith.

“This opportunity enables our students to learn more about the community and American culture and gives them a chance to take what they are learning in the classroom and apply new skills to real-world challenges,” Smith said. “It also strengthens the relationship between the university and the community where our students learn outside the classroom and the community, in turn, gains knowledge from our students.”

See a video of the students at http://youtu.be/PxK_WlE4pBY.

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