By Lois Boynton, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
One of the best things about college students is how much they value making a difference on their campuses and in their communities. Innumerable public relations students continued to make us proud throughout PRD’s Spring Semester of Service.
You may recall that we announced this initiative in late November and have highlighted public service activities by PRD members and their students since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s now National Volunteer Week, and we punctuate stellar service efforts with an emphasis in this blog post on fabulous student contributions.
Student-run agencies contributed considerable pro bono work this semester. For example:
Associate Professor Emily Kinsky reports that 1910 PR, the new student-run agency of the Department of Communication at West Texas A&M University, served on-campus clients for free this semester by planning events, creating content and managing social media.
Highlights of the firm’s semester were successfully planning a Distinguished Lecture Series event and a week full of activities for an international professor with expertise in virtual reality. They arranged for her to speak to nine West Texas classes, at the nearby junior high, and to local high school and junior college students attending an on-campus workshop using 360 cameras and VR gear. Going forward, 1910 PR plans to expand into the local community of Canyon and Amarillo to serve nonprofit clients.
UNC-Chapel Hill’s Heelprint Communications agency provided pro bono social media support for the president-elect of the National League for Nursing who also leads the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
This semester, 67 PRSSA Bateman teams supported Campaign to Change Direction, a collaborative nonprofit that works to reduce stigmas and change the conversation about mental health and mental illness in America. Among them:
- The West Texas A&M University’s Bateman Team worked with the university counseling services office as part of a campaign to bring awareness to cues of emotional suffering.
- UNC-Chapel Hill backed two Bateman teams. Emotional WELLness partnered with student-led ReThink Psychiatric Illness and hosted a mini-lecture, “Paws” and Pledge, a movie night, and created strategic social media messages. The Stop the Stigma team worked with the Department of Psychology Community Clinic. They hosted a workshop on how eating disorders affect women of color, opened conversations through Arts Without Expectations, provided a relaxing yoga class, and encouraged social media visitors to take the Campaign to Change Direction pledge.
PRSSA chapters also rose to the occasion with other activities. Chris Wilson, assistant professor with Brigham Young University’s College of Fine Arts and Communications, shared these successes:
The Utah Valley Refugee Action Network asked BYU PRSSA students to find newsworthy stories to pitch to local media. Committee members attended a dinner hosted by R.A.N. to take pictures and gather stories they could pitch to local journalists. They captured high-quality images of the event and have started to draft their pitches. The R.A.N. educates the community about opportunities to assist local refugees.
BYU’s Simmons Center for Cancer Research holds an annual fundraising event called the Rex Lee Run to raise money for cancer research. They called on BYU PRSSA students to help them reach their goals to
increase the number of runners and money earned this year. Students pitched stories about the community getting involved in the run, and successfully got a story published in the Provo Daily Herald. Students created content for all the Rex Lee Run’s social media channels (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). They increased the client’s Instagram following, use of #RexLeeRun, engaged in conversations on Twitter, and made good use of a Facebook event. Their efforts resulted in 1,900 runners signing up for the race, which raised $56,000.
Public relations classes – campaigns, writing and research – also provide students community-service opportunities.
Students in the West Texas A&M University’s public relations campaigns class created a campaign for the Canadian River Arts Center to increase supporters and participants.
At UNC-Chapel Hill, public relations campaigns classes each worked with nonprofit clients including the Bullies 2 the Rescue bulldog rescue shelter, UNC Refugee Wellness, Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill, among others. About 80 students in public relations writing classes provided tactical support to community nonprofits such as Shakori Hills Community Arts Center, N.C. Botanical Garden’s Edible Campus Initiative, and the Marion C. Jackson Center for Saving and Making History, to name a few. And, students in research methods classes conducted qualitative and quantitative research for the UNC Media Law Center, MindSumo, Community Home Trust, and more.
And, an additional shout out to the freelancers. Assistant Professor Rebecca Swenson’s Agricultural Education, Communication & Marketing students hosted Agriculture Awareness Day on April 11 at the University of Minnesota. The event increases awareness of how food, fuel, and fiber are produced and showcases the crucial role American agriculture plays in maintaining a strong economy, especially as the world population continues to grow. College students, staff, faculty, and preschoolers visited with cows, pigs, llamas, lambs, and goats – and even humans! They talked to industry experts, played trivia and games at interactive booths, sampled food, and heard the latest agriculture, food, and environmental news from the University of Minnesota.
During National Volunteer Week, many Agricultural Communication & Marketing students share their expertise by supporting the 88th Minnesota FFA State Convention with communications planning, social media, media relations, photography and magazine writing. The event brings more than 3,500 high school students, parents and teachers to campus for youth development and leadership events. Last year their communication work reached more than 9,000 people, shared crucial key messages with attendees, and strengthened relationships with members, industry partners and organizational alums who couldn’t attend the event.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Students continue to make their mark with community service through classes, extra-curricular activities, internships and jobs. Please take a moment to thank your students for being volunteers extraordinaire.