In preparing for professional life after college, nothing beats real world experiences. Employers look for this when they’re hiring college graduates. Often this experience is found through internships, or part-time jobs. But in 2005 UNM marketing instructor John Benavidez decided to bring the real world to his classroom.

“In the first week of school in spring 2005, I got a card in the mail from EdVenture Partners. We were invited to be a part of their Cadillac Case Study Competition. I had the card with me when I walked into class. The class was going to do a 50-page promotion plan originally, but I asked them ‘what do you want to do? Do you want to do a 50-page promotional plan or do you want to enter this competition?’”

His class decided to give the competition a try, and they won it their first time out. Since then, his class has often been found at the top of the podium each year, shocking prestigious colleges like Arizona, Indiana and Syracuse.

“I think we’re very much underrated. I see this a lot when we go to competitions. We’ve even been referred to by different names, it was pretty funny. But I think people in the marketing arena now know that if UNM’s going to be in the competition, we’re playing to win.”

And this year, Benavidez and his team of students have their work cut out for them. This year EdVenture Partners picked them to design, execute, and measure a social or digital campaign that empowers students to become involved in countering violent extremism. Benavidez’s team is one of 45 university teams from around the world that was asked to take part in the competition.

“We’re definitely going to have to bring it for this competition. It’s returning us back to our roots. We worked with Cadillac for three years. But then we went through a phase where we did a lot of work with the CIA, the FBI, U.S. State Department, and we’re going back to that now.”