Competition Inspires Students to “Pay It Forward”


For the past three years, Concordia University System (CUS) students have praised the benefits of participating in the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF)  National Student Marketing Competition, including the opportunity to gain valuable, real-world experience.

Now they are helping to “pay it forward” to even more students.

“LCEF’s tag line right now is ‘Where Investments Build Ministry.’ We figured why not add to that idea and pay it forward to our fellow and future colleagues at Concordia [University] Chicago,” said Mary Michaelsen, a member of the Concordia- Chicago, team that participated in the second LCEF student marketing competition in 2013.

Because university policy stipulates that prize money (whether academic or athletic) cannot go directly to individual students, Michaelsen and her teammates used their $750 competition participation prize to establish a new Concordia University Chicago, scholarship – the Ethical Business Leaders of Tomorrow.

Emily Carpenter – also a CUC, team member – says that what she learned about LCEF while working on the marketing campaign influenced her support for the new scholarship.

 “Because LCEF is an organization that prides itself on doing the right thing and helping those who need assistance,” using the participation prize money for that purpose “made sense,” she said. 

In January, Andrew Mertzenich – a Concordia-Chicago, business major – received the first Ethical Business Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship. The selection committee included faculty members as well as Carpenter, Michaelsen and their marketing competition teammates, Natalie Gudel and Allison Schoenbeck.

And while Mertzenich is the first recipient, he won’t be the last. Following their predecessors’ lead, the CUC, students who competed in the student marketing challenge on April 4 also donated their participation prize to the scholarship’s endowment fund.

Representing Concordia-Chicago, this year were: Roma Avila, Kelsey Briggs, Mariana Maldonado and Christina Mastromauro. 

New scholarship a “ripple”

Both Concordia-Chicago, teams were very committed to their projects for the marketing competition and embraced the opportunity for “that spirit to live on” through the new scholarship, said Elisabeth Dellegrazie, the marketing professor who served as a faculty advisor for the competition for the past two years.

CUC, students were among those from a record eight CUS campuses who developed in-depth marketing plans and delivered polished presentations at the competition this spring. This year’s challenge was to create a campaign to increase Lutheran school enrollment and build awareness of LCEF as a ministry partner. 

Looking back, Emily Carpenter calls participating in the competition “definitely a worthwhile experience.”

“I learned so much in that short amount of time that I have taken into my professional life. It also showed me that when you have the right team, you can accomplish amazing things . . . ,” said the Concordia-Chicago, graduate who now lives in Portage, Ind., and focuses on her family’s foundation to help people affected by life-altering illnesses.

Plans are to make the Ethical Business Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship an ongoing award. Hopefully, as many as three recipients per year eventually will be recognized, Dellegrazie said.  

“This is a wonderful experience for the students – and for me, as an instructor – but I wonder if LCEF realizes how many lives this competition impacts?” the professor said. “You don’t realize the ripples.”