Black School of Business students take on The Beast

By Heather Cass
Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend

Talk about a beast of a group project!

This semester, students in Dr. Mary Beth Pinto’s MKTG 344 Buyer Behavior class will be acting as marketing analysts for the Barber National Institute (BNI) and the organization’s annual adventure run — The Beast on the Bay.

Fifty MKTG 344 students attended a kickoff session on January 15 in 180 Burke where they watched a video (filmed by 2013 Black School graduate, Jon Wolff, who completed the 2014 event) and learned about the Beast on the Bay from BNI’s marketing team, including Black School grad Brandon Boyd ’13, who is a communication/social media specialist at Barber National Institute.


About The Beast

The Beast actually has two heads, er, events: A 10-mile obstacle course and a 1.2-mile adapted course for adults with disabilities. (The Barber National Institute serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities and mental health challenges.)

The event, scheduled for September 12, is held on the shores of Lake Erie at Presque Isle State Park. Racers in the 10-mile event are bused to the start line at Beach 11, then they run back over sand, trails, asphalt and 25+ obstacles to the finish line at Waldameer. Near the end of the 10-mile event, racers intersect with the 1.2-mile adapted course participants and are encouraged to help them complete an obstacle or two. The interaction helps to drive home the reason behind the race.

Feeding The Beast

While the Beast is many things to the participants (fun, challenging, etc.), it is, ultimately, a fundraiser. Proceeds from the race benefit BNI and, thanks to generous and numerous sponsors, nearly the entire race fee ($60 to $100, depending on when participants sign up), goes directly to BNI.

The more participants the Beast draws, the more people BNI can help. That’s why Beast organizers have challenged the Black School of Business students with helping them feed the Beast and grow the event.

Students will work in teams to answer the following questions:

  1. How can BNI attract more participants from the 16-25 year age group?
  2. How can BNI attract more participants from outside the Erie area (Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Canada)?
  3. How can social media be used best to promote and encourage participation in the Beast on the Bay?

Several information gathering methods will be used, including personal interviews, focus groups, and surveys with past, potential, and target Beast participants.

Everyone wins

“Learning by Doing projects with corporate partners are such resume builders for students,” said Dr. Pinto, professor of marketing. “It is the perfect way to apply theory and concepts learned in the classroom and build their portfolio of experiences that will differentiate them when it comes time to meet with potential employers.”

Students will tour BNI on January 22 and have the opportunity to meet some of the special people they will be helping through their project.

Thoughts from a Beast-slayer


As a two-time Beast on the Bay participant myself (that’s my team in the video below), I’m excited that our students will be helping to make the event bigger and better than it already is. As a Marketing professional, I’m excited that our students get to learn by doing by working on a real project for a real company.

I’m also hoping the project inspires some of them to take on the Beast. I think they should definitely form a team, don’t you?!

The gauntlet has been thrown, MKTG 344!

What about you?

Are you ready to take on the Beast?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s