Tom Reilly – Professor

This letter is my enthusiastic recommendation for Jessica Forrester, a member of my Marketing Strategy class in the spring term, ’09.  It was a large section with 70 students.  Jessica stood out as an achiever, a difficult thing to do in a section that large.  She impressed me on several accounts:  her business insights, her consistent thorough preparation, her willingness to participate, and a stubborn unwillingness to accept anything but excellence for herself.

Marketing Strategy is a case course.  That is, instead of teaching business theory, I demand the students read dozens of cases and apply theory in order to reach a sound decision.  Teaching marketing classes, in my opinion, is best taught by teaching decision making skills first.  I require daily that students come to class prepared with that optimal decision and the backup rationale for the decision.  Having said that, there are many times when the core issues get lost and students focus on what they perceive to be creative solutions rather than the core problems the company is facing.  Jessica displayed a clear talent for stripping away the chafe, and identifying the central problems.  Although I think of marketing as hard work first and creativity second, Jessica also has a clear creative voice.  In one case, I was prepared to recommend a “text-book” repositioning strategy for a company; Jessica had an “outside-the-box” solution which was at least as sound as mine.

In a section that large, there are a lot of places for a student to “hide.”  A student can prepare poorly or not at all from time to time and still succeed.  Jessica refused to do this.  She was one of my “go-to” students when I needed to refocus a discussion.  She was consistently aware of nuances that affected case decisions, and she volunteered those insights regularly.

Perhaps most impressive, though, was her unwillingness to accept anything less than excellence.  Early in the course, she and I misfired in our communication of an assignment. It was not a bad grade, but for Jessica, it was mediocre and therefore unacceptable.  She moved her seat down closer to the front, and attacked the curriculum with a vengeance.  She sought out opportunities for extra assignments.  She correctly identified that thorough day-to-day preparation would move her closer to the solution (finishing the class with an “A”).

Finally, she showed a fearless honesty.  One of the cases had strong ethical implications, a pharmaceutical company which had developed an AIDS drug and was challenged to bring it to market in a cost effective manner.  I was playing a little “devils advocacy” to stir discussion.  Jessica politely and firmly confronted me, not letting me get away with an ethical breach.  That, too, is not an easy thing to do in a section that large.

I enthusiastically recommend Jessica; I am confident in her ability to succeed.  Please call or write if I can add to this recommendation.

Tom Reilly
Instructor, Virginia Tech
President, Site Star Analytics