The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of the UB School of Management

E-commerce class supports community renewal

For more than a decade, Carl Skompinski has served as a mentor for a graduate class in e-commerce, where students help businesses with real-world issues relating to their Web presence. A senior consultant for security (IT) with HP Enterprise Services, Skompinski is also a proud Buffalo native. So, this year, he proposed that the class work on a project that would give back to the community.

In the past, the class has collaborated with a number of well-known local companies, including Rich Products, Delaware North, Independent Health and Fisher-Price.

Skompinski suggested using their resources this year to help a nonprofit organization dedicated to the renovation of Buffalo's historic Central Terminal, an art-deco architectural masterpiece that fell into disrepair when trains stopped running to it in 1979.

"I grew up in the shadow of the Central Terminal on Buffalo's East Side, so the preservation and neighborhood redevelopment efforts are very near and dear to me," Skompinski says.

The course instructor, H. Raghav Rao, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the school's Department of Management Science and Systems, agreed it was a worthy project. "Carl's idea was a good way for the class to live out UB's commitment to helping the Western New York region," he says.

The e-commerce students worked with the Central Terminal Restoration Corp. (CTRC), the nonprofit organization dedicated to the stabilization and redevelopment of the complex, to generate ideas that would help get more community members involved with the restoration efforts.

After learning more about the Central Terminal and reviewing its existing website, seven teams of students spent weeks crafting strategies to help improve engagement with the community and raise much-needed funds. In addition to Skompinski, HP employees Kevin Junger, Jeff Raugh, John Martin, Greg Ott, Pete Lapadat and Angela McMaster served as mentors to the groups.

The ideas they presented to the CTRC included a Google AdWords campaign to increase click traffic to CTRC ads; allowing people to become CTRC members immediately via PayPal; telling the terminal's story through Twitter; an online raffle; and creating a virtual "Supporters Wall" to recognize donors.

Marilyn Rodgers, the CTRC's executive director, was thrilled with the students' ideas.

"Our goal is to use a public/private development concept that will result in the reuse of the Buffalo Central Terminal as the Center for Restoration Arts & Sciences," Rodgers says. "This project with the UB School of Management allows the terminal to step into the 21st century with a solid foundation in e-commerce, but also is an example of progressive partnering for the good of the community."

- Cathy Wilde

Photos courtesy of the Central Terminal Restoration Corp.