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Senior Prompts Marketing Emphasis

By Sally Jongsma

Senior Kate Vanden Heuvel began advocating for a marketing emphasis already as a first-year student three years ago. This spring she was the first to graduate from Dordt’s business program with a marketing emphasis.

Marketing will appear as a special emphasis for the first time in next year’s academic catalog, but it has been three years in development. The courses required for it have either been recently added to the business major offerings or are drawn from courses in other majors. The new program requires students who wish to graduate with such an emphasis on their transcript to take six courses in addition to the business core: Math 107, Statistics; Communication 260, Public Relations; existing business courses in marketing management and advertising, personal selling, and promotion; and two courses that have developed over the past two years in marketing research and electronic marketing.

“Marketing is one of the big areas of business,” says Professor Bernie Weidenaar. “Not only that, it’s a huge part of our consumer-oriented culture,” he says. “It’s a bit scary to realize that even political candidates today are packaged items.” Marketers find out how to get through to certain interest groups and how to speak to them and then, essentially, invent the person, he adds.

Weidenaar believes that students need to be aware of how their minds can be manipulated, and they need to know how they can negatively manipulate others. “They need to know what drives a particular marketing plan and they need to understand what they are called by God to be and do,” he says. “Marketing is a powerful tool that we must take seriously.”

“Students need to choose jobs with their eyes open,” he says, adding that they should strive to be a positive influence in their workplace, but may also have to realize that there may be some jobs Christians simply need to walk away from. He cites as an example financial institutions that promote ways to convince people to overextend themselves.

Despite marketing’s often negative image, Weidenaar believes that Dordt College needs to prepare students to approach marketing from a Christian perspective. Most people think of marketing as purely promoting or selling, he says. It also includes product development and providing a service to people who need or desire certain products. Marketers analyze needs and markets, they develop product lines, and they promote the products companies develop.

The marketing emphasis is only one of several new business emphases that have been and will be added to the business curriculum. Last year the department introduced a business-biotech emphasis, joining with the biology and engineering departments to combine courses from different departments as well as add two specific courses that will prepare business majors to work in biotech environments. Next year, Weidenaar expects the department will add an international business emphasis.

“Business is global today,” he says. “We need to prepare students for a global economy.” He believes students will be well served by having a broad-based core business major and then focusing on one of these emphases.

Students seem to agree. Vanden Heuvel got another eight students to do an independent study in market research to get things rolling, and twenty-five students enrolled in the new e-marketing course. Weidenaar expects twenty to twenty-five percent of business majors to take advantage of the new marketing emphasis.