Student View Q&A
Alex Brandstetter ’10
When students are given an important assignment, most hope to make a “slam dunk,” figuratively speaking, in bringing the project to fruition. For Champlain College student Alex Brandstetter ’10, the slam dunk on his International Marketing assignment was literal. Brandstetter was one of the key players in creating Slam for Sudan, an event held on March 25, 2009, in which dozens of talented basketball players from around Vermont showed off their court skills to benefit the local Sudanese refugee community. Part public awareness campaign, part entertainment event, Slam for Sudan has become Brandstetter’s signature achievement in his Champlain career. The second Slam for Sudan is already in the works. Here, the Newport, Vermont, native discusses his drive to succeed as a global professional and citizen.
What drew you to International Business as a major?
My family comes from all over the world. My mother is Canadian, my father is German, and I have family still in both countries, as well as an uncle in South Africa. My dad’s side of the family owns a clothing company called Bogner, based out of Munich, Germany, and they do business internationally. While I have no desire to work for my family, I think that business is and always has been driven by an international collaborative effort to solve problems. I want to be a part of a business that is not restricted by languages, cultures, or borders. And I want to work with a diverse group of skilled people coming from a wide variety of places because I think that only good things come out of working with people who have a different perspective on life and, ultimately, business.
The major is fairly broad. What kind of career do you envision for yourself after graduation?
I am driven by opportunities that require creative solutions. I love developing concepts and coming up with ideas and strategies that help organizations succeed in their industry. I currently work for Shark Communications and love the challenges that come with marketing and branding. I want to start a marketing agency that specifically works with international companies eager to enter foreign markets. By surrounding myself over the years with like-minded and ambitious people from all over the world, I am confident that this will be where I find myself soon after graduation.
We know that Slam for Sudan originated as a class project. Where did the deeper inspiration come from?
I have always believed in one general idea when it comes to civic engagement: If you know there is a problem in the world and do nothing about it, you are part of the problem. I have been involved with the Sudanese community for some time now, and to think that people could ignore the issues that they face both here in the States as well as back in Sudan motivated me to make the Slam for Sudan a reality.
What did the event teach you about business?
The event was a great way to give the skills we were all learning at Champlain a test run. We essentially were running a business, and I was able to recruit extremely talented fellow students from over seven different majors to come together and get it done. We had Marketing majors developing concepts and designing ads, Web developers building and maintaining our Web site, Design majors whipping up some amazing promo collateral, Accounting majors building and monitoring our budgets, Econ majors designing financial models to find the most efficient way to price and sell tickets, and a bunch of others who helped get the word out. We were able to go out and mingle with some of the most successful Vermont business owners in our attempt to raise money, and the experience was one I will never forget. If it weren’t for the people at Champlain, I don’t think the inspiration needed to accomplish the Slam for Sudan would have found its way to those who came together to make it a reality!
Tell us about the civic engagement piece of Slam for Sudan.
What inspired you and your team members to look at the project in this way?
I think that we wanted to tell the people that, if you know that there’s a problem in the world, and you do nothing about it, then your ignorance is part of the reason it exists.
What made you think you could do something for the Sudanese community in Vermont?
We saw an opportunity to contribute skills—our education at Champlain. We thought, “Why not test-run our talents and skills through civic engagement, not expecting anything in return, giving it a test run, seeing the results?”
Would you recommend this strategy to other students interested in doing work beneficial to the community?
Yes. Essentially no money is involved. If you’re good at something, that’s what you can contribute. The only thing that would happen is a benefit. Your neck isn’t on the line. If everything goes well, you put it on your resume. If it doesn’t, you scratch your head and try again.
As the facts below indicate, the event was an unqualified success. You and your team must have been satisfied with your efforts.
The event was like a self-portrait of our motivation. We wanted to make people realize that this was not about credit. It was one of those feel-good things you do to know that you have contributed to something larger than yourself.
It must have been a challenge to pull off.
It was a lot of work, but it didn’t seem like it. Only in hindsight did we realize that we put a lot of time into it.
Slam for Sudan: The Facts
The Inspirational Professor: Marie France Nelson, who taught International Marketing in fall 2008, when Alex Brandstetter ’10 and his peers hatched the Slam for Sudan plan
Number of Champlain College students directly involved in Slam for Sudan: 30
Other Champlain College students on the Slam for Sudan “starting” team: Brendan Anson-Pritchard, Kevin Besecker, Moritz Born, Chelsea Currier, Julianne Godbold, Elisha Kottler, Tom Okeefe, Russell Martin, Caroline Nutter, and Jon Stickney
Number of Vermont high schools participating: 13
Attendance: Approximately 600
Money raised: Approximately $6,500 (net)
Where the money went: Global Reach partnerships helping Vermont’s Sudanese community receive vocational training to redevelop their communities in Vermont and Sudan
The Judges: “The Logger” Rusty DeWees, Miss Vermont 2009 Brooke Werner ’09, Late Night Saturday host Tim Kavanagh, and Vermont Frost Heaves basketball stars Chris Cayole and B.J. Robertson
The contests and their sponsors: Point-guard contest, sponsored by Bogner; three-point shot contests, one sponsored by Jay Peak and another sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s
Grandest prize: Chevrolet Malibu hybrid donated by Shearer Chevrolet
National Basketball star whose agent called Alex Brandstetter when he heard about Slam for Sudan: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar