Skip to nav Skip to content

September 01, 2020

By Dr. Steve Bruning and Dr. Lois Foreman-Wernet

A Winning Partnership: Tackling a Real-World Problem Provides an Incredible Learning Opportunity for Students

Capital’s public relations students, in partnership with the integrated communications firm Fahlgren Mortine, received the “PRSSA Outstanding Project” PRism Award at the 2020 PRism Awards ceremony, hosted virtually on July 30 by the Central Ohio Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

The project recognized was a campaign developed for the Community Shelter Board (CSB) to create awareness about youth homelessness in Central Ohio.

In 2018, inspired in part by the opening of the new Convergent Media Center on campus, Capital’s public relations faculty reimagined and relaunched the public relations major to take advantage of the cross-disciplinary and experiential learning required for students to succeed in today’s communication landscape.

One of the culminating courses in the new curriculum is an integrated, immersion-based capstone course – created in partnership with nationally known, mid-size integrated communications and marketing firm Fahlgren Mortine. The course model incorporates working professionals and practitioners into the design and delivery of the class.

Real-world experience also is delivered through partnership with a real client. As a result of this model, instructors included in the delivery of the course are creative directors, graphic artists, producers, marketing strategists, media relations specialists, CEOs and more.

The class worked to solve challenges that the Community Shelter Board faced, specifically around youth homelessness. The class learned that at any given time, an estimated 3,000 Central Ohio youth are experiencing homelessness, with another 1,400 considered vulnerable to future homelessness.

As part of their preparation for midpoint presentations, students conducted research to review studies, news coverage, social chatter and more regarding the current perceptions around youth homelessness nationally and locally. The students were split into three groups and focused on motivating action by focusing on social media strategy, video creation, and special events held on Capital’s campus.

One key area of focus was social media content and assets. Students designed materials completely custom to Community Shelter Board and dedicated to information about youth homelessness. Other materials included videos, interviews and a photography session with Youth Action Board members, preparing poverty-simulation stories, and more.

Students set out to create video assets that told the stories of youth homelessness in Central Ohio. The Community Shelter Board connected the students with young people who have experienced homelessness and currently participate in CSB’s Youth Action Board. Before the cameras were turned on, the students and members of the Youth Action Board had a chance to connect, share stories and ask questions. This was helpful in making the on-air talent more comfortable in sharing their stories in front of an audience, and it provided an excellent learning experience for the students that they may not have been expecting.

Other students quickly got to work and held several grassroots events across campus, collecting clothing and personal care items for Community Shelter Board. They hosted information tables and a panel discussion with members of the CSB Youth Action board, so others on campus could learn more from those with direct experience. Students created print materials to promote awareness of resources and providers offering safe, welcoming places for young people, in case fellow college students were about to experience homelessness themselves.

Students developed materials and received feedback from members of the Fahlgren Mortine and Community Shelter Board teams throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, students shared all final materials, as well as editable files, with the Community Shelter Board to use as needed. The Community Shelter Board has incorporated materials created by the students into its social media content repository, and the approach taken by the campus team has morphed into a toolkit for other campuses to use in the future.

Sara Loken, director of Community Relations for Community Shelter Board, was impressed with the students’ passion for the work. “I was amazed by how determined they were to tell the story accurately, sensitively and respectfully,” she said.

Overall, the partnership has been immensely fruitful. It has provided a remarkable learning opportunity for students and has given them a high-quality, professionally oriented experience that they can discuss with potential employers as they transition from the classroom to the world of work.