Aaron Gonnering earned his wings early—his eagle wings, that is. At age 14, he attained Eagle Scout status, the highest-possible rank to achieve in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Only 2 percent of Boy Scouts have earned the designation since the program’s 1912 inception, and the average age to do so is 17. A major component of the process is a service project. Gonnering chose to install six Little Free Libraries in his hometown of Oconto Falls, Wisconsin. (The nonprofit Little Free Library facilitates the installation of public bookcases that encourage community members to both take and donate books.)
Until age 21, Gonnering remained involved in BSA’s National Youth Leadership Training initiative. The curriculum equips participants with skills such as communication, team building, problem solving, goal setting, and event planning. After completing the six-day course, Gonnering returned as a volunteer troop guide.
“I grew up in a great family, and the Boy Scouts accelerated my development. I wouldn’t be where I am without it,” Gonnering said. “Because of the impact the Boy Scouts made on me, I wanted to give back and make a difference in the lives of youth.”
Gonnering earned two undergraduate degrees from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin: a B.B.A. in marketing and a B.A. in integrative studies with a focus on psychology and sociology. He decided to immediately build on that with a graduate degree in marketing.
He researched programs all over the world and was accepted to international schools in Australia, France, and Italy as well as two domestic options: the University of Florida and Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business. He landed on Robinson’s M.S. in Marketing because of its high rankings and standout curriculum.
“I wanted to complete coursework with an emphasis on digital marketing,” Gonnering said. “It’s important to me to learn about top trends, and Robinson has the best mix of classes.”
Gonnering enrolled in fall 2022. So far, his expectations have been met. In Marketing Management with Alok Saboo, Gonnering and a group of classmates evaluated a company’s marketing presence and provided recommendations for improvement. Gonnering’s team selected a pizza chain. A critical finding was that the company’s slogan, which claims its products contain wholesome ingredients, misleads consumers.
“Through a survey, we discovered that people consider that brand of pizza to be packed with salt and sugar, and to be unhealthy overall,” he said. “By truly delivering on its promise of using high-quality ingredients, the company could set itself apart from competitors.”
Gonnering analyzed a fast food chain in Buyer Behavior with Jennifer Daniels. After heavily researching existing and potential customers, he created profiles of the restaurant’s target audiences. Gonnering fleshed out personas comprising factors like age, key personality traits, and preferred social media channels, which would empower the company to deliver its messaging to the right people and ultimately generate greater revenue
Gonnering also serves as a graduate assistant. As part of the position, he taught a section of GSU 1010, a required freshman course that introduces students to Georgia State, reviews available resources, and positions them for academic success. Gonnering dove headfirst into the role, as it speaks to his passion for leadership and mentorship.
“The first semester of college can be scary, especially for international students. I really enjoyed being an outlet for them,” he said. “I promised them I’d been in the same boots, and asking for help isn’t a bad thing.”
Gonnering graduates this summer. An ideal job would involve a mix of analytics, digital marketing, and the opportunity to interface with people. To further the eagle analogy: the sky is the limit when it comes to his career.