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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

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October 12, 2021

Shoemaker Gives Back Through Sales Scholarship

Alum Hopes to Challenge Students to Push for Excellence
Shoemaker Gives Back Through Sales Scholarship
Ryan Shoemaker, ’17, gives back to his alma mater through a scholarship designated for students taking courses through the Center for Sales Excellence at the College of Business. With it, he hopes to motivate students to go above the sales expectations set in the Advanced Professional Selling (MRKT 357) course.

Ryan Shoemaker, ’17, utilizes the work ethic honed at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to achieve success in his sales career after graduation. Now he plans to motivate other students to do the same by establishing the Center for Sales Excellence High Achievers Scholarship at the College of Business.

“The many experiences I had in college helped me get to where I am in my career today. I want to give back to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Center for Sales Excellence in a way that would impact students who work hard and become overachievers,” said Shoemaker, a native of Lincoln, Nebraska, who majored in management.

To be eligible for the new scholarship, students must first enroll in the Advanced Professional Selling (MRKT 357) course offered through the Center for Sales Excellence housed in Howard L. Hawks Hall. The course provides students with a competitive edge and helps them gain real-world sales experience by selling sponsorships for the annual Center for Sales Excellence Golf Tournament.

Ryan Shoemaker
While taking the MRK 357 course, Shoemaker sold the first platinum sponsorship for the annual Center for Sales Excellence Golf Tournament. Chad Mardesen (left), associate professor of practice in marketing, taught the course and set an aspirational top sponsorship level.

“Selling actual sponsorships teaches students how to prospect for new customers, approach a potential customer, ask questions and explain a sponsorship’s benefits and often, deal with failure, quota pressure and success,” said Chad Mardesen, associate professor of practice in marketing, who teaches the course.

When initially creating the sales goals for students in the course, Mardesen set the bar high. He created various levels of sponsorships for students to sell, the highest being the platinum sponsorship for $5,000.

“I’m a firm believer that no one rises to low expectations, so the platinum sponsorship was created to set the bar incredibly high, almost too high. I honestly thought it would be impossible to reach,” he said.

However, the lofty goal provided the incentive Shoemaker needed to think big. He set up a meeting with leaders at Nelnet, a service company specializing in consumer finance, telecommunications, and K-12 and higher education, based in Lincoln.

“I sat in a room with the chief executive officer and the chief sales officer and pitched why the sponsorship would be a good idea for them. When I made the ask for $5,000, they were all on board and shortly thereafter, they became a three-year partner of the sales center,” he said. “That opportunity helped shape the way I do my job today.”

Mardesen didn’t hide his surprise when Shoemaker told him about selling the first platinum sponsorship.

“I honestly thought it couldn’t be done. It was incredibly impressive,” Mardesen said. “I’ve seen Ryan firsthand, presenting options to potential sponsors, and I’ve seen him face-to-face with a wide variety of people. He builds solid rapport, asks great questions and creates a strong connection with people.”

Shoemaker credits Mardesen and the sales center for helping him succeed as a sales development representative at Perceptyx, an employee survey and analytics organization. Named a “Top University for Professional Sales Education” by the Sales Education Foundation each year since 2014, the sales center helped equip Shoemaker with the skills he needed to compete at a higher level in the workforce.

“Chad made a huge impact on my life and how I see the world of sales and business and moving through that realm. The Center for Sales Excellence gave me confidence going into my first job out of college with Perceptyx and taught me skills and how to be comfortable with selling,” said Shoemaker, who works with organizations like Walmart, Google and CVS through his job. “Ultimately, it provided me with the opportunity to be where I am today. I continue to draw from the knowledge and experiences I gained then to be successful now.”

Through the scholarship, Shoemaker hopes to encourage students to replicate his efforts in the class. Each year, one student who sells $5,000 or more in sponsorships in MRKT 357 will earn the High Achievers Scholarship. Mardesen sees the scholarship providing students with an added incentive to go the extra mile while they gain sales experience.

“It’s my hope that as the scholarship grows in popularity, it will motivate students to target sponsors they normally wouldn’t have targeted and will incentivize those conversations between students and local companies. Students will ultimately have experiences they never would have had without the incentive, and they’ll all have a unique, hands-on learning experience,” he said.

To learn more about the Center for Sales Excellence, visit: