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Penske Teams Up with UA Little Rock to Host Student Sales Competition

Ciara Massey and Leila Horsman, UA Little Rock students who won the Penske Sales Competition, stand with the Penske team members Patrick Quirk, Racheal Shoriwa, Cody Sparlin, and Cari Britt.
Ciara Massey and Leila Horsman, UA Little Rock students who won the Penske Sales Competition, stand with the Penske team members who judged the competition, including Patrick Quirk, Racheal Shoriwa, Cody Sparlin, and Cari Britt.

The UA Little Rock School of Business teamed up with Penske to provide students with a unique opportunity to learn skills for their future careers.

Penske, a transportation services company, and the School of Business hosted a sales competition for UA Little Rock students. Penske provided the sales situation, and a team of judges worked with Dr. Noelle Butski, assistant professor of marketing, to evaluate the pitches and choose the winners, who received cash prizes and the opportunity to interview for full-time positions at Penske after their graduation.

The sales competition is a win-win scenario as students learn professional skills, and Penske gets the opportunity to hire talented UA Little Rock students after graduation.

“The sales competition was an exciting event for the students, Penske, and me,” Butski said. “The students were able to compete in a sales competition, and it gave the students an advanced real-life scenario. Penske also did a professional development session where they gave tips for the competition and described different roles at Penske. The students got a real feel for what sales is like, outside of just learning about it in the classroom.”

In the competition, students spoke with a potential buyer who owned an older fleet of trucks about the benefits of a truck rental program and covered topics like cost, driver safety, road support, and truck maintenance.

“I would like to start off by commending Dr. Noelle Butski and the School of Business for the hospitality and open arms we received,” said Cody Sparlan, branch retail manager at Penske. “This was the first time to my knowledge that we have partnered with UA Little Rock in any capacity. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and participation from the staff. The students fed off this energy and prepared well for this. I don’t think myself, or the other judges, were quite prepared for this level of competition. As Dr. Noelle witnessed, we went back and forth for quite some time on the top three, which is a great problem to have. We at Penske think this is a win-win partnership for all and look forward to future competitions.”

The student winners of the sales competition included Ciara Massey, first place; Bryan Hernandez, second place, and Leila Horsman, third place.

“This was probably one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had in my academic career,” said Massey, a senior marketing major from Marion. “It was nerve wracking, but super rewarding. I’m extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to participate.”

Horsman, a senior marketing major from McAllen, Texas, was thankful to Professor Butski for providing such an immersive educational experience.

“I believe this experience was a great way for us to use all the skills we’ve been learning about and practicing in Dr. B’s class in a real-world scenario,” Horsman said. “This has been one of my favorite activities that I’ve gotten to participate in throughout my college experience. I’m positive that I will use the lessons and feedback from this competition in my future career. I would love to give a special thanks to Dr. B, for not only setting this up, but being a teacher that’s always been willing to go above and beyond for her students, providing us with every learning opportunity possible.”

Shannon Gwinn, director of career services for the College of Business, Health, and Human Services, is the person who first connected Butski with Penske. They are planning to continue the sales competition in the spring semester to give students another chance to show off their sales skills.

“I would say to other students in the business school, take advantage of all of the opportunities that come your way,” Massey said. “You never know where they might lead you. Through winning the sales competition, not only did I get to practice my selling skills, but I also got a chance to network. This led to me getting a job interview with Penske in the Memphis area. That could possibly jumpstart my career, and to think it all started with a sales competition.”