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July 23, 2002 -- News Brief

Three-peat is a charm for NASA team

A University of Illinois team, comprised of a dynamic group of Illinois MBA students, won the annual National NASA Means Business Student Competition Grand Prize for the third year in a row this May. While the students may not actually travel to the planet Mars, the students' participation in the competition will help NASA develop plans for future Mars missions.

NASA officials chose the University of Illinois team over three other national university finalists in the competition finals held at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, May 7 through 9. NASA had challenged the teams to focus on developing a customer-focused plan for NASA's mission planning to Mars. As Grand Prize winner, the University of Illinois team is expected to travel to Washington during the fall to present its findings to various stakeholders and policymakers.

The University of Illinois team's efforts included marketing research and promotion events conducted through visits at local schools, online surveys, campus promotions, as well as the incorporation of state-of-the-art marketing strategies such as permission marketing in a customer engagement program plan.

The Illinois team was comprised of a mix of first and second year Illinois MBA students with diverse skill sets and experiences that aided them in developing an effective customer engagement program plan. The team members were: Martha Vargas, Kurt Trauth, team co-leaders, Corinna Crawford, Herbert Jackson, Daniel Marotta, David Obermeier, Salvatore Parlatore, Andrea Sczurko, and Hari Venkatesan. For the third successful year, the team faculty advisor was Dr. Normand Paquin, associate director of the Office for Strategic Business Initiatives. Paquin commented that the team "virtually carried the day all by itself. Martha and Kurt, experienced members from last year's team knew what was required and were supported by a highly committed group of their peers."

Most of the team members are back in the fall as second year MBAs. According to Paquin they have every intention of continuing the University of Illinois' success in this annual competition.


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