Education in Motion:Community-engaged learning provides transformative experiences for event planning course | Capital University, Columbus Ohio


    • Education in motion

      PR365 Classmates
      Community-engaged learning provides transformative experiences for event planning course /

      In his poem titled, "In Praise of Dancing," St. Augustine of Hippo describes the dance as a means by which humankind can overcome barriers and help us re-engage with our neighbors.

      "I praise the dance, for it frees people
      from the heaviness of matter
      and binds the isolated to community."


      The echoes from this fourth-century poem depict the dance as both freedom and societal inclusion. As Capital University advances its mission of transforming lives for a brighter world, one class is currently planning an event to lift up overlooked members of our community and celebrate their innate gifts and accomplishments.

      An event planning course (PR 365) is now about to take a deep dive into community engagement with a formal dance. Through a collaborative partnership with Franklin County Recreation, Dr. Lois Foreman-Wernet's class has been working the entire semester to facilitate a showcase event for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the greater Columbus, Ohio, area.

      Themed "The Great Masquerade," the formal will enchant guests with the glitter and sparkle of the Roaring ’20s in this black-tie affair at the Koinonia Center at Trinity Lutheran Seminary on Saturday, April 14, 7-9 pm.

      The relationship with Franklin County Recreation has blossomed over the past four years and pairs the academic work of Capital students with meaningful learning outside the classroom.

      "(Community-engaged) learning is a natural pairing with Capital's values," said Mary Kleffner, a junior Public Relations major in the PR 365 class.

      "For us, this is an opportunity to help members of our community who are often lost in the shadows," Kleffner began. "This dance will help showcase what (the FCR participants have) learned and will give them a chance to use their new skills."

      The class is divided into four different committees and covers all the quintessential aspects of event planning; like promotion, facilities, food, and decoration. However, this semester's assignment is more far-reaching than most people realize. The students in Foreman-Wernet's class must also approach the event through the lens of public relations professionals, which means advancing the client's mission through communication, managing public perception, and deploying crisis management when needed.

      "(Community-engaged) learning is a natural pairing with Capital's values... this is an opportunity to help members of our community who are often lost in the shadows."

      Rachel Benway, a senior Organizational Communications major, said the immersive process of spending time with the people they are serving is as rewarding as putting her learned skills to use. Part of the course requirement is volunteering, which Rachel said is an important time for bonding and establishing a personal connection to those she serves.

      The participants inside the Franklin County Recreation program have been learning ballroom dancing recently and have had some smaller dances, so Rachel and her classmates have attended some of these events. While attending one particular dance at FCR, Rachel noticed that no one was dancing when the music first started. She decided to take the first step and head to the dance floor. Right on queue, someone enthusiastically asked her if she would dance with him, and the others quickly followed.

      "When he asked me to dance, I said, 'Well, yes!'" Benway laughed. "They are not a shy group. Their emotions are right there. Just like mine and just like us most of us PR and communication students. It didn’t take long before they were pulling us onto the dance floor. They are really comfortable with us and very appreciative."

      Likewise, marketing major Kayla Fairchild agreed about the immense reward that comes with community service.

      "Working with FCR, we learned that people with developmental disabilities are often forgotten or cast aside,” Fairchild said. “After spending time them and getting to know them, we really wanted to put them in the spotlight."

      Benway agreed. "They look forward to this every year and want to be here. Even more rewarding is that they want us to be here with them."

      The Great Masquerade is a black-tie affair and everything will be sparkling and glamorous. Sparkling juice, glittering dresses, and masks. Tickets to the event are $10 and Capital students, as well as the community, are encouraged to attend. If interested, please email Mary Kleffner.

      "We'd love for Capital students to attend and be part of the celebration with us," Kleffner said. "Come with the best, most-accepting attitude, have fun, and wear something nice."