CSULA’s own H²O
It’s cool. It’s refreshing. And it’s quenching a strong thirst on campus. It’s Cal State L.A. in a bottle.
Student researchers (L-R) Fiona Titchenell, English; Rosa Camarillo, Business; Carlos Fragosa, Business; Christopher Sepulveda, Business; Esby Rosas, Business; and Franziska Dobler, Education/Marketing conducted a three-way taste test of bottled water on campus.
That is right—Cal State L.A. has its own bottled water.
Cal State L.A. business and economics faculty recognize that there is only so much they can teach students from out of a book. In many areas of the field, you learn by doing.
That is why the college has developed “experiential” learning projects, which students participate in during their final years of schooling. The University’s water bottle project is one such opportunity. Other projects over the years have included the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, where students complete tax returns for small businesses and low-income community members, marketing and site selection research for the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and a case study for American Apparel.
Professors say that experiential projects are an invaluable tool in teaching because they give students a taste of the career world, introducing them to some of the professional challenges, obstacles and rewards.
“It’s a good learning experience,” said Professor Richard Kao, adding that students have to see projects from development to completion in a very short time frame.
They have exposure to all aspects of the work, he added, noting that in the water bottle study, students “designed a questionnaire, did a survey, collected data, analyzed the data, and presented their findings.”
Another benefit of the process is that the work often gives students something to show in their portfolio and discuss during job interviews, Assistant Professor of Marketing Ik-suk Kim said.
CSULA Eagle Spring water, served on campus, is the result of a unique partnership between the University’s administration and the College of Business and Economics. Together the two branches of the University worked together to develop a product that would appeal to students and still be cost affordable.
Vice President of Administration and Finance George Pardon came up with the initial concept of the Cal State L.A. bottled water. Bottled water has been one of the fastest growing beverages in recent years as consumers adopted healthier lifestyles and looked to drinks that would support that.
Assistant Professor of Marketing Ik-suk Kim also noted that bottled water is one of the few beverages with containers that people will keep, carry on the road and reuse. That gives the University’s message a broader reach. “This is a win-win for the campus,” Kim said. “The students got marketing experience and the water will bring more exposure to our campus.”
Hundreds of the University’s mountain spring water bottles have already been distributed. Water bottles were given to prospective students who attended the EagleFest outreach event last fall and a specially labeled Commencement water bottle was handed out during June’s ceremonies.
Before putting the bottled water into the hands of prospective students, graduates, and families, though, the University did its homework. Students in the marketing department of the College of Business and Economics conducted a campus taste test, surveyed students on what they were willing to pay and tested brand names for their appeal in two separate marketing and research classes. (Take our quiz on what water bottle you buy below.)
Kim’s students developed a collection of water brand names, including those specifically designed for mountain spring, purified and mineral water—in case the University ever wanted to expand its offerings beyond mountain spring water. Eagle Spring was a student and administrator favorite.
At the same time, a team of six students in Professor Richard Kao’s marketing class put the University’s product to a three-way taste test against other leading brand name water distributed on campus. The University’s water came out on top.
In a random survey of 117 students, 45.3 percent ranked CSULA’s water as the best tasting of the three, 29.9 percent ranked it as second-best and 24.8 percent ranked it as the least favorable. More than 92 percent of those surveyed also said they were in favor of the University selling its own line of water.
“Even without knowing the difference in taste students like the idea of having special school brand water,” the study said. “… Most would buy it over other options given equal price, and (an) overwhelming majority would if CSULA water was cheaper than the alternatives.”
The marketing students involved in both projects said it was challenging, yet rewarding work that felt more like a job than school.
“The most rewarding aspect was seeing that the results actually meant something to the school and the work performed was valued,” said Esby Rosas ’09, who headed up the water taste test challenge. “This is indeed a smart venture for the University.”
For information on CSULA’s water, call the office of the Vice President of Administration and Finance (323) 343 - 3500.