When you think of rising stars, you might conjure up Hollywood glitz, TV singing competitions or the latest celeb on the red carpet. But the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management boasts its own cadre of high achievers through the Rising Stars in Marketing program.
Established in 2022 with support from Robert Eckert ’76 — former CEO of Kraft Foods and Mattel — the program recruits 30 top marketing majors each year. They get the opportunity to shadow executives, visit the marketing departments of leading corporations and develop their professional networks.
The goal is to create a pay-it-forward success loop, where elite marketing students — boosted by their real-world experiences — return after graduation to advise students coming up behind them. “If we can supercharge the experience students leave here with, they’ll be more likely to come back and help create that experience for the next generation,” says program director Jesper Nielsen. “We prepare them for internships, job opportunities and the opportunity for them to be mentors for future students.”
Internships provide college students with job experience to better compete in a challenging job market. They are especially important in a complex industry that constantly tracks consumer behavior — and races to stay one step ahead of it. For a marketing major, job skills encompass everything from statistics and economics to direct customer sales. Graduates might land in fields as disparate as web content creation, social media, public relations, advertising or market research.
Alicia Murillo is the president of Rising Stars. As a marketing and business management double major, she relishes the complex, creative-analytical mix of marketing, which all comes down to bringing people together. “At the end of the day,” she says, “marketing is about building relationships, whether it’s in person or with the ad you’re creating.”
Through Rising Stars, Murillo was able to visit the Disney headquarters in California and the New York headquarters of yogurt-maker Chobani, where she engaged where she engaged with professionals.
“Both of those experiences just opened my eyes to the possibilities — within different types of companies and structures — of what marketing can offer,” she says. Her goals when visiting the companies was to leave with these questions answered: How does the company operate? What are its goals and values? What are some of its employees’ favorite and least favorite parts about working there? She stayed curious and engaged during visits to make the most of her experiences, she says, and gained valuable insights from them.
Murillo then took those experiences and shared them with her fellow classmates, such as junior Madison Reznicki, a combo marketing and dance major who also relishes the industry’s left brain-right brain rigors. “I like that I can utilize my analytical side, especially for engagement content creation,” she says, “and then try to make decisions for businesses based on how well campaigns have been doing.”
Reznicki recently shadowed an e-commerce product manager for Walmart in Sunnyvale, California. “Just seeing the whole process helped in my understanding of what product management is,” she says. “I didn’t realize how collaborative it is, because they’re working with the design team, the business team and the legal team. There’s so much that goes into it.”
For Reznicki, the human-to-human relationships created through Rising Stars are essential.
“The best part of the program,” she says, “is just being around so many people who are also super passionate about marketing and building themselves professionally. There are 30 people. I know everyone’s name, and I know I can rely on them for help with anything.”
This culture of mutual assistance is what is certain to keep Rising Stars paying it forward for generations of students.