Joan Ball, Ph.D.

Joan Ball, Ph.D.

Through Service-Learning, Business Professor Instills Social Responsibility

“The challenge facing business schools today,” said Joan Ball, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marketing, “is how to prepare future global business leaders who are socially responsible as well as profit-oriented. I can think of no better way of doing this than by incorporating Academic Service-Learning (ASL) into business courses and connecting marketing principles with experiential learning in the nonprofit arena.”

Academic Service-Learning, which consists of course-related volunteer activities, is central to the University’s Vincentian mission. ASL is being integrated into a growing number of courses across all disciplines.

Dr. Ball joined The Peter J. Tobin College of Business (TCB) at St. John’s in 2007, after nearly 17 years in marketing and public relations. “My background positioned me to embrace the focus on service-learning,” she said. “I was drawn to the opportunity of being able to provide students with valuable, hands-on professional experience by having them work with community organizations.”

With the help of the University’s Vincentian Institute for Social Action (VISA), Dr. Ball identified community nonprofits whose marketing needs dovetailed with the content of her courses. She then introduced a series of ASL initiatives into her Service Marketing, Principles of Marketing, Marketing Management and Sales Promotion classes — which have earned praise from students as well as administrators.

“We nominated Dr. Ball for the Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty,” said Jessica Cook, Associate Director of ASL. “We were impressed by her ability to teach and empower students while providing marketing support to the University’s community partners,” said Cook. She was referring to City Harvest, Intermediate School 49 (IS49) and Our Lady of Trust Academy. Colleges and universities nationwide nominate professors for the award, which is annually presented to one pre-tenure faculty member.

In addition, Dr. Ball received TCB’s 2011 John Dobbins Service Award and the student-determined Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring Award, sponsored by the Office of Residence Life at the Staten Island campus. Tin Tran ’12TCB submitted her name for the second award. “I thought her Service Marketing and Principles of Marketing classes were transformational,” said Tin, who presented the award to Dr. Ball at the 2012 Senior Dinner.

Dr. Ball divides her classes into small, autonomous consultancies that develop campaigns for clients — the nonprofit groups that serve as St. John’s community partners. This approach replicates conditions students will face as marketing professionals. “We had to make important decisions on our own,” said Tin. “But we also pulled together to get our work done.”

Acting as professor and “chief marketing officer,” Dr. Ball provides guidance while letting students make their own decisions. “I give them the freedom to set up and conduct client meetings, run focus research groups, do market research and determine the scope of their work,” she said. “Agency executives rarely tell their teams precisely what to do.”

Her students not only met the challenges but performed with distinction. “I am gratified that our clients adapt so many of their recommendations,” said Dr. Ball. “Being able to list these achievements on their résumés has helped students land competitive marketing positions. These projects helped set them apart.”

In September, Dr. Ball will begin teaching Advertising Research, readying students to participate in the annual National Student Advertising Competition. She expects to continue incorporating ASL principles into her teaching.

“ASL’s combination of experiential and theoretical learning offers the most effective framework for educating future business leaders,” she said. “It also embodies St. John’s Vincentian and Catholic values, helping to develop business practitioners who are ethical, compassionate and socially conscious.”