By GREGORY ZELLER //
Young minds will shine in two upcoming Adelphi University events – one a regional stage for entrepreneurial thinkers, the other a national platform for society’s biggest issues.
On Nov. 4, business-focused brains from the Ezra Academy in Forest Hills will join students from 26 Long Island high schools for the 2016 Adelphi Apprentice Challenge, an annual competition mashing together student teams in a fast-paced race to design a winning marketing strategy.
That same day, the Garden City university will close the application process for its second TEDxAdelphiUniversity, a follow-up to Adelphi’s successful – though limited – 2015 TEDx Talk.
First up is the Apprentice Challenge, which will separate more than 240 students from those 27 high schools into mixed teams charged with creating a successful marketing plan.
There’s a breakneck pace. After a series of speeches and instructional seminars, teams will have just one hour to formulate their strategy and just six minutes to present it to carefully selected panels of judges, with six winning teams advancing to a six-minute final round.
Last year’s Apprentice Challenge was won by a team dubbing itself “Flagship Marketing,” which ran best with the challenge concocted by national concert promoter LiveNation, Adelphi University’s 2015 Apprentice Challenge partner.
LiveNation’s challenge involved strategies for marketing concerts to teens. Flagship Marketing’s winning solution: “pop-up concerts,” akin to “flash mob” performances, to promote the larger events.
The idea was “brilliant and we loved it,” noted Alan Cooper, associate dean of Adelphi University’s Robert B. Willumstad School of Business. “They included a social media component on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, and the LiveNation team said they might actually use some of the ideas.”
This year’s event partner, Mineola digital marketing/search-engine specialist Didit, has come up with another timely challenge: marketing a monthly subscription sample box to a 16- to 19-year-old audience.
“There are a lot of them out there now, where people subscribe and every month they got a box with things in it,” Cooper said. “There are boxes designed around comic collectors, boxes designed around beauty products.”
The competition will involve “figuring out what teens want” in their sample box and “how to market to them,” Cooper added, noting that while the general idea – a subscription box for teens – is public knowledge, contestants won’t receive key detail until the competition begins.
Didit is well-represented among the judges scheduled for the event, with four of the 14 listed judges employed by the search-marketing firm. The remainder are all Adelphi University faculty or graduates, according to Cooper, representing such diverse corporate entities as Apple, Publishers Clearing House and famed Woodbury caterer Scotto Brothers.
Like LiveNation, Didit has an Adelphi University connection: Renee Marquardt, Didit’s senior vice president for client services, is an Adelphi alumnus, as is LiveNation VP of Finance Dan Cassel.
Shaping the Apprentice Challenge with the help of Adelphi University graduates brings it full circle, Cooper noted, since the program is designed to give regional high schoolers a taste not only of the business world, but of the Adelphi community.
“The students get a sense of real-world business,” the associate dean said. “It’s not just learning in a classroom. You’re actually working with real firm and real products and getting real coaching and advice from the university.
“For the university, we’re always looking for the brightest and the best students,” Cooper added. “This is our 10th year doing this and several contestants have actually wound up becoming Adelphi students.”
As the Apprentice Challenge competition heats up Nov. 4, Adelphi University will be winding down the application process for presenters interested in giving talks at the school’s second TEDx event, scheduled for March 31.
This spring, the school hosted its first TEDx Talk. It was a sort of trial run – Elizabeth Cohn, executive director of Adelphi University’s Center for Health Innovation, noted a “restricted license” – that was successful enough to earn Adelphi a full-on TED event this year, with fewer restrictions on audience size or the number of presenters.
Even with a larger and more varied assortment of presenters, Adelphi University’s first TEDx Talk might be a tough act to follow. Adelphi student Jennifer Krol, one of the inaugural TEDxAdelphi University speakers, received a letter in April from President Barack Obama congratulating her for her inspiring talk on sexual violence and the nation’s rape culture.
Other topics discussed in that first Adelphi University TEDx event ranged from income inequities to mental health. This year, with the university opening its application process to a larger pool of potential speakers, that range figures to widen.
“TED really encourages you to showcase the most innovative and broad thinking,” noted Cohn, who spearheads the university’s participation with the idea-spreading national nonprofit. “We had only a half-day event last year, so we focused primarily on speakers from the campus community.
“Now that we have double the amount of time and a full audience, it will be more of what you think of as a typical TED event,” she told Innovate LI. “Long Island has many, many people who think innovatively and create solutions, and we’re thrilled to be able to showcase the community at large.”
The application process is “highly competitive,” Cohn added, referencing a “rigorous review process for the written applications” and in-person auditions in December.
“We really encourage people to try,” she said. “But we don’t want to lull them into any false security.”
The second-year event, which will include coaching for the chosen presenters and also requires extra training from the TED organization for Cohn and her staff, is an excellent sign for Adelphi University as a whole, according to the Center for Health Innovation exec, who noted many schools host that trial event but never graduate to the next level.
“You see these universities starting and then they don’t continue,” Cohn said. “We feel very fortunate that we’re able to continue and, in fact, upgrade our license.”