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By TYLER ELLYSON
Greg Broekemier started his professional career in retail management with JCPenney.
That was more than 30 years ago, before e-commerce, social media and online advertising changed the way companies operate.
“The world was so different then,” said Broekemier, whose access to technology at JCPenney was limited to a computerized inventory system.
Today, it takes a lot more than that to stay ahead of the competition. Knowing how to properly market a product is critical in a global economy where almost anything is a few clicks away.
“The environment is ever-changing,” Broekemier said. “There are always new competitors entering the market, and sometimes competitors leave the market. Technology changes how we do things.”
That’s what excites the University of Nebraska at Kearney marketing professor.
“There’s always something new,” he said. “I can’t imagine teaching something that doesn’t change.”
Marketing is also a broad discipline that continues to grow. Businesses use it, so do hospitals, school districts, universities and many other entities.
“Whatever you’re interested in, you can work in marketing, and there’s a need for good marketers,” Broekemier said. “It’s a competitive world and marketing is the center of that competition.”
Broekemier ensures UNK students are prepared to capitalize on these opportunities through his courses.
He teaches a marketing research class that connects students with real-world clients. Each fall, the class partners with three to six clients in need of marketing information, and students work in teams to conduct this research before providing written and oral reports. Their clients have included nonprofits, small businesses, service providers and larger companies such as Bosselman Enterprises, The Buckle and Wells Fargo.
“Any kind of industry you can think of, we’ve probably done a project for,” Broekemier said.
One project assisted a nonprofit clinic that provides medical services for uninsured residents in Buffalo and Kearney counties. UNK students conducted research that helped the nonprofit determine whether area residents knew about the clinic, its services and patient base and the need for this type of health care. This information helped the clinic raise operational money and expand.
Another, more unusual, project involved a customer satisfaction survey for an area mortuary.
“They’re in a competitive environment, too,” Broekemier explained.
This project was a bit trickier since there’s an emotional component when surveying families who recently lost a loved one.
“I still see one of the students on that team and he won’t ever forget that project,” Broekemier said.
Many of the marketing research projects stick with students for years to come. That demonstrates the course’s impact.
This type of experiential learning provides a number of benefits for students, most of whom go from having no research experience to developing a product for external clients.
Broekemier enjoys watching the students grow and gain confidence along the way, eventually realizing they have the skills to work in this profession.
“You can just see that transformation,” he said.
The class teaches them project management, client liaison, teamwork and communication skills and allows them to utilize industry software while analyzing the data they collect. Working with real clients also adds a level of responsibility and relevancy that’s hard to duplicate with case studies since they’re addressing issues businesses and organizations are currently facing.
“There’s no teacher’s manual for these projects,” Broekemier said. “Every one of them is different. Every situation is somewhat unique.”
The marketing research also ties into other courses, particularly advertising management and marketing management. Some clients, including Wells Fargo, request research in the fall then have UNK students follow up with marketing and advertising plans in the spring.
The projects, which are completed at no cost for clients, help strengthen the relationship between UNK and the business community and allow students to develop connections with potential employers. They also look good on resumes when that job search begins.
Numerous UNK marketing students have been competitively selected to present their work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, which showcases the best undergraduate research in the nation.
Broekemier said this tells employers UNK students are ambitious leaders willing to take on challenges who possess the skills needed to improve a business or organization.
“Those are some pretty strong messages,” he said.
Broekemier, who is in his 34th year with UNK, appreciates the school’s close-knit campus and smaller classes. He believes the university is the perfect size for faculty and student interaction.
“I think we have a size and mentality that not all schools have,” he said. “It’s hard for students to come here and get lost.”
This allows him to work with students on research projects and follow their progress from freshman year through graduation.
Broekemier and his wife Mary, who manages Maurices at Hilltop Mall in Kearney, had opportunities to leave the community, but they decided to stay, raise three children here and establish their careers.
“Kearney has been a great place to live,” Broekemier said.
UNK’s size also gives the marketing professor a lot of flexibility when it comes to his research. Instead of focusing on a single subject, he has the freedom to pursue several different topics of interest.
“UNK is a nice fit for me,” said Broekemier, whose research interests include consumer behavior, business ethics, retail and marketing trends and college choice.
He’s looked at small businesses’ social media practices, how music affects shoppers’ buying habits and what physicians and sales representatives think about direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceutical drugs.
Another study focused on what factors led students to enroll in certain colleges or universities.
“It was interesting to find what drove that decision,” he said.
By collecting data from high schoolers and their parents, Broekemier learned adults were more concerned about their children’s physical safety and teenagers paid more attention to other aspects of college life, with males and females showing distinct differences. Both parents and teens considered cost and academic programs to be important.
“It would be kind of fun to do that type of research again,” said Broekemier, who noted that the study occurred prior to some high-profile incidents that could change students’ perception of school safety.
Another article – from Broekemier, UNK colleagues Ngan Chau and Sri Seshadri, and Santikorn Pamornpathomkul with Rajamangala University of Technology in Thailand – compares the mobile shopping behaviors of young adults in Thailand and the United States.
It’s no surprise U.S. consumers are using their smartphones and other devices more frequently to make purchases and pay bills, but some parts of the world are even further ahead of Americans when it comes to adopting this technology.
“We’re moving in that direction, but there are challenges, too,” said Broekemier, whose article was recently published in the Journal of Internet Commerce.
These obstacles include determining the best way to market on smaller smartphone screens and keeping consumers engaged long enough to complete their transactions. Currently, Broekemier said, a relatively high percentage of online shoppers place items in their digital cart but never complete the purchase. That’s something those in the retail industry want to change.
Broekemier and his team plan to expand on this study in the future.
China is one country where residents use their smartphones to pay for everything from taxi fares to vending machine snacks.
Broekemier witnessed this firsthand two summers ago when he taught a marketing class at China Pharmaceutical University, which is located in Nanjing near the country’s eastern coast. He also noticed all the skyscrapers and other development in the Asian nation.
“I see why they’re such a player in international trade and commerce,” Broekemier said. “They’re clearly putting money into infrastructure and growth.”
Broekemier taught 53 students during a six-day course, with sessions lasting 4 1/2 hours each afternoon. It was a challenge covering that much material in such a short time frame, he said, but rewarding to see the students’ enthusiasm and hard work.
“Boy, they were fun to teach. They were so eager to learn,” said Broekemier, who was surprised by how well the students spoke English.
It was his first time in China, so Broekemier made time to take in the sights with Seshadri, who also taught a course at the university. They visited Beijing, stopped at the Great Wall of China and rode a high-speed bullet train.
“It was a really good experience. I have a few friends in China now,” said Broekemier, who hopes to teach another course there in the future.
At UNK, Broekemier has served as a department chair since 2002.
That position comes with a lot of additional responsibility, as well as the opportunity to make an even greater impact. Broekemier enjoys being part of the leadership team for the College of Business and Technology, and he never turns down the chance to mentor a young faculty member or advise a student.
“The times when you can help people are really rewarding,” he said.
When UNK launched its new cyber systems department last summer, the marketing and management information systems (MIS) department also changed. MIS moved to the cyber systems department, and Broekemier’s department became marketing, agribusiness and supply chain management.
The department chair welcomed the change with a sense of excitement.
“All three programs have dedicated and strong faculty members,” Broekemier said of marketing, agribusiness and supply chain management. “That will help make the transition easier.”
He’s always been proud of the collaboration within his department.
In 2012, the marketing and MIS department at UNK received the University-wide Departmental Teaching Award from the University of Nebraska. The award, created in 1993, recognizes a department or unit within the university system that has made unique or significant contributions to the university’s teaching efforts.
“The UNK Department of Marketing and Management Information Systems is a highly deserving recipient of this award,” then-University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken said when announcing the honor. “The department and its faculty have demonstrated a deep commitment to enriching students’ education through innovative new courses, hands-on learning, close collaborations with local businesses and outside-the-classroom experiences such as study abroad and service learning. The department’s students leave UNK fully prepared to become leaders in their business communities. This is a great benefit to the university, Kearney area and state as a whole.”
The department also received the UNK Departmental Teaching Award in 2010, 2011 and 2012, something Broekemier attributes to the quality educators he works alongside.
“It’s a culture we’ve tried to cultivate within our department of being teaching-focused,” he said.
For the university-wide award, the department received $25,000 to be used in a manner the department saw fit, such as travel expenses for a conference, instructional equipment or improvements to a classroom or student resource. Department members instead decided to use that money to create an endowment that supports a yearly student scholarship.
“That was kind of the cherry on top,” Broekemier said.
Title: Professor and Department Chair, Department of Marketing, Agribusiness and Supply Chain Management
College: Business and Technology
Education: Bachelor of Science, business administration comprehensive with marketing emphasis, Kearney State College, 1980; Master of Science in Education, education with an academic option in business, Kearney State College, 1984; Ph.D., marketing, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1993.
Years at UNK: 34
Career: Retail manager, JCPenney, 1980-84; Instructor, Kearney State College, 1984-86; Teaching and research assistant, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1986-87; Professor, Kearney State College/University of Nebraska at Kearney, 1987-present; Department chair, UNK, 2002-present.
Family: Wife, Mary Broekemier; Daughter, Lynn Petersen, 36, of Lincoln; Sons, Bryan Broekemier, 30, of Omaha; and Logan Broekemier, 25, of Lincoln; Grandchildren, Addison, 9; Hayden, 6; and Zoey, 6 months.
Hobbies/Interests: Spending lots of time with family. My wife and I are fortunate that our kids all live in either Lincoln or Omaha, so we see them and our grandchildren often. I’m a big NFL (Steelers) and MLB (Pirates) fan, and I coached Little League baseball when my sons were playing. I try to stay physically active, so I work out three to four times per week at the YMCA. I’m a volunteer invited member of Kearney Family YMCA’s Membership and Marketing Committee.
Honors/Awards: University-wide Departmental Teaching Award, University of Nebraska system, 2012; Tenured-Teaching Award, UNK College of Business and Technology, 2006 and 2013; Regional Institutional Faculty/Staff of the Month, National Residence Hall Honorary – MACURH Region, 2013; Institutional Faculty/Staff Member of the Month, Big Blue Chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary Organization, 2013; Mortar Board Impactful Faculty Member Award, UNK, 2012; Departmental Teaching Award, UNK, 2010, 2011 and 2012; UNK Faculty Mentor Award for Undergraduate Student Research, 2003; UNK College of Business and Technology Faculty Mentor Award for Undergraduate Student Research, 1999 and 2003.
Areas of research/specialization: Consumer behavior, marketing ethics, retail/services, college choice. At UNK, I have the freedom to conduct research on many different topics of interest rather than having to specialize in one, narrow subject area.
Courses taught: Kearney State College/UNK courses: Marketing Research, Advertising Management, Consumer Behavior, Retail Management, Principles of Marketing, Franchising Management, Administrative Strategy and Policy, Small Business Management, Organizational Behavior, Principles of Management and Principles of Accounting I. China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing, China: Basic Marketing, summer 2017.
Recent Published Articles:
– “An Exploratory Study of Mobile Shopping Behaviors of Young Adults in Thailand,” Journal of Internet Commerce, 2018.
– “Social Media Practices among Small B2B Enterprises,” Small Business Institute Journal, 2015.
– “Perceptions of Fully Asynchronous Web-Based Courses: Marketing Implications,” Mountain Plains Journal of Business and Economics, 2014.
– “Attitudes and Beliefs Regarding Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceutical Drugs: An Exploratory Comparison of Physicians and Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives,” Health Marketing Quarterly, 2014.
– “An Exploration of Happy/Sad and Liked/Disliked Music Effects on Shopping Intentions in a Women’s Clothing Store Service Setting,” Journal of Services Marketing, 2008.