UC Students Go Inside the Numbers to Spark Local Businesses

The U-Imagine Center’s Digital Spark program, in which students help businesses plan and implement digital marketing strategy, is adding a new wrinkle this summer: data analysis.

“With a new data analytics course coming into play at Ursinus and a growing number of students interested in data, we saw an opportunity for it all to come together in a mini pilot program,” says Maureen Cumpstone, entrepreneur-in-residence at Ursinus and coordinator of the summer program.

“The market demand for data analytics is building,” Cumpstone says, “as is the desire for employees who have digital marketing skills. That’s the thread we see through our program and so it becomes important for our students to gain that kind of experience while they are here. It’s about professional skills development.”

Two students, Jack Bagnell ’20 and Marissa Pownall ’20, both applied economics majors, are working closely with Clemens Food Group in Hatfield, Pa., to look for trends and indicators that will help the company strategize pricing.

“As the weeks have progressed, we can see how our work can help them, even if we discover just one significant piece of data or a trend,” Pownall says.

“This is a hands-on experience and we’re working eight hours a day,” Bagnell adds. “We’ve gained a lot of insight into data analysis by working with Clemens and we’re also required to get a certification in Google analytics, which is good experience that we can also put on a résumé and a LinkedIn profile.”

Jonathan Gerhartz ’18 is a recent Ursinus graduate who took an idea he and classmates had at Ursinus in the U-Imagine Center and turned it into a small business. Fieyo Media is a digital marketing agency that helps small businesses grow their brand. Now, he’s returning the favor as a current Ursinus student, Cristiano D’Angelo ’20, is helping Gerhartz with data analytics through the Data Spark program.

“A lot of small business don’t have the resources to compete with larger companies, so they aren’t really paying attention to data,” says Gerhartz, who also performs data analytics work for the Ursinus facilities department on a part-time basis. “One thing that Maureen has taught us through the U-Imagine Center is how to take an idea and turn it into action. By using data, students can help companies take advantage of a lot of opportunities to grow their business.”

Nearly 70 students and 48 businesses have participated in the U-Imagine Center’s summer Digital Spark program since its inception five years ago.

“We recently conducted a survey of U-Imagine alumni that have participated in the center’s programming as a whole,” Cumpstone says. “Many have noted that their participation in Digital Spark is a differentiator when it comes to the interview process. That’s a huge outcome for us, and it’s a way our students are standing out in the crowd when looking for employment opportunities.”

The following is a list of Ursinus College students participating in Digital Spark/Data Spark this summer along with their business partners:

Jack Bagnell ’20 and Marissa Pownall ’20 (Clemens Food Group of Hatfield); Aaron Grill ’21 (Closet City of Harleysville); Elijah Ward ’21 (East Norriton Pharmacy of East Norriton); Nathaniel Dorfman ’20 (PayforED software development firm of Newtown Square); Reagan Ketchum ’20 (JDog Junk Removal and Hauling of Conshohocken); Marion Fortino ’20 (Shapes Salon of Norristown); Tommy Armstrong ’20 and Danielle Friedman-Hill ’20 (PBR Productions of Perkasie); and Cristiano D’Angelo ’20 (Fieyo Media of East Brunswick, N.J.). —By Ed Moorhouse