Professor Chaplin's Marketing 461 Relay

Having just taken their midterm exam, Professor Lan Chaplin's MKTG 461 classes needed to shake their lingering test anxiety. "So," Professor Chaplin said, "what better way to loosen up than to run around outside on a beautiful fall day in Chicago?"

On the afternoon of Thursday, October 22, two sections of her class met on the lawn outside of University Hall to compete for what else but Halloween candy (and the sheer satisfaction of winning) in a series of relay races. The legwork began with basic sprints, then gradually got more complicated, including relay tasks that involved jacket-changing, coin-balancing, marshmallow-tossing,  shoe-carrying (because nothing builds team spirit like handling each other's footwear) and running in linked teams, arm in arm, all culminating in a good old-fashioned candy hunt.

After the competition wrapped up, Chaplin gathered her students together to talk about the upcoming team assignments. Former students were on hand to answer questions about the class and to offer advice.

"At this stage," said one former student, "much of your work is really about the presentation.” Chaplin's students work in teams to complete two major presentations for her class. The first presentation behind them, it's now up to each team to identify a fresh problem in marketing and develop their approach. William Bernacki, a current MKTG 461 student, thought the relays were vital preparation. "A successful presentation requires group members to manage workflow and hold each other accountable as a group. To build that dynamic, each of us has to come out of our comfort zone; I'd say the relays accomplished that."

Another current student, Donna Miskiewicz, remarked that Professor Chaplin knows how to create real-world pressures, and also how to manage them. "Dr. Chaplin treats the classroom like a workplace," said Miskiewicz. "When we give presentations, she lets the class interrupt to ask questions, as though it were a real meeting. The experience thickens your skin, and makes you better at thinking on your feet."

The relays were, if nothing else, an exercise in thinking on one's feet. As the tasks grew more complicated, Chaplin's instructions became more abrupt. Students had to react quickly. "I saw the teams strategizing," said Chaplin, "and supporting each other, even when they didn’t win a relay." Chaplin was joined on the field by former students,  who took the afternoon off to referee in support of their former professor. Chaplin also had the help of her two children, who kept busy with the stage-setting for each relay task and even participated in some relays. "I confess, I wanted students to spend time with kids ahead of a class discussion on children's consumer behavior. But I also wanted to personalize our classroom relationships. Of course, it’s nice to wear sneakers to work instead of heels, though the point is to remind students - who are beginning to visualize their careers - that professionalism is a balance among many obligations: family, work, play and much else. The balance can be its own reward.”

View the full relay photo album on the UIC Business Facebook page.