SFA business students participating in the competition

Stephen F. Austin State University students in the Rusche College of Business are participating in a worldwide competition - Peer to Peer: Challenging Extremism. The competition tasks students with developing a marketing strategy using social media to help counteract violent extremism. SFA students created "We are M.O.R.E. - Motivating Others to Recognize Extremism" as their campaign's foundation.

Recently, SFA students in the Rusche College of Business hosted an on-campus event to help educate attendees about violent extremism as part of a worldwide collegiate competition.

SFA students in Marketing 352: Advertising and Promotion have been gathering primary research and building a marketing campaign using social media for the Peer to Peer: Challenging Extremism competition since the beginning of the fall semester.

The recent classroom promotional event served as part of the students' campaign strategy to build awareness and promote their message of, "We are M.O.R.E - Motivating Others to Recognize Extremism." The event included a video about ancestry, a PowerPoint, an interactive online quiz, a survey and giveaways.

"The goal of the on-campus event was to demonstrate that people do have prejudices, and we wanted to break through their prejudices," said Ida Groth, a senior international business major from Sweden who has been instrumental in building SFA's competition campaign. "We wanted to counteract 'Islamophobia' and spread awareness and hope to discourage young people from wanting to join extreme organizations."

EdVenture, an organization connecting clients with educational partners to help engage with millennials, is sponsoring the competition globally.

SFA students are competing against more than 230 schools worldwide to create a campaign that counteracts violent extremism.

"This is a sensitive topic, and I think being able to talk to other students about it in a welcoming environment while also educating them is important," said Miguel Rodriguez, SFA Allen senior international business major.

The competition's goals include: motivating or empowering students to become involved in countering violent extremism; catalyzing other students to create their own initiatives, products or tools to counter violent extremism; and building a network or community of interest focused on living shared values that also counter violent extremism, according to the competition's website.

During the competition, students form a student-led social media agency and research a target audience. Dr. Marlene Kahla, professor in SFA's Department of Management, Marketing and International Business, divided her class of 33 students into teams to work on the campaign. Students are treating the challenge like a mini business with executive, creative, social media, promotional and financial teams.

Students work with their faculty advisers to review client objectives and program resources. Each team receives funds to produce a campaign and Facebook ad credits to design, pilot, implement and measure the success of a social media or digital initiative.

SFA students have been promoting their campaign on Facebook (@sfaMOREmovement) and on Instagram (@themoremovement). The class also created a campaign website at http://themoremovement.weebly.com/, designed T-shirts and buttons, and produced videos to help spread its message.

Top teams can enter and win all-expense-paid travel to regional competitions, and global finalists can win all-expense-paid travel to Washington, D.C., where they will present to senior government officials, practitioners and Facebook leadership to earn scholarships. Student teams will submit their final campaigns to judges on Dec. 7.