UT Tyler communications students gain experience by helping nonprofits

Published on Monday, 23 May 2016 22:51 - Written by Hannah Buchanan, UT Tyler Communications


Undergraduate mass communication students at The University of Texas at Tyler are provided real-world learning experiences by aiding local nonprofit organizations through the university’s public relations campaigns class, Dr. Martin Slann, College of Arts and Sciences dean, announced.

“This collaboration is a very fine example of how our program, and in particular the public relations campaigns course, applies theory in very practical and helpful ways in assisting nonprofit organizations and in serving the community,” said Dr. Dennis Cali, UT Tyler communication department chair. “It’s a great example of a town-gown relationship at its best.”

The course serves as the spring capstone for UT Tyler senior mass communication majors following the public relations/integrated communication option. Students are divided into teams - each simulating a public relations agency - and develop a real-life PR strategy for a selected nonprofit.

“This course is completely service learning in its approach. The students know they will ‘hit the ground running’ in the spring when I announce which nonprofit organization will be our client for the entire semester,” said UT Tyler associate professor Dr. Marsha Matthews, course leader since 2008.

This year’s client is Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County, which provides support, resources and education for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. In the campaigns, the teams this year - named ‘Orange’ and ‘Blue’ - will address the needs of not only the Alliance but also the communities it serves.

“Developing a real-life PR strategy for AASC has been an intense and rewarding experience,” said student Latisha Mosley, of Jacksonville, Orange Team’s creative director. “It has allowed us to make real-world connections while learning to work under pressure as a team. There are many people in Smith County who are in need of Alzheimer’s and dementia services. Hopefully, our campaign ideas can provide a sturdier bridge between AASC and the community.”

Students apply what they learned the previous fall semester into the project, finalizing their work in a campaign plans book. It’s complete with all the necessary documents, graphics, videos, audio files and event planning steps to successfully execute the campaign.

Each team presents their own public relations campaign for client approval at semester’s end. Client officials then decide which agency they would ‘hire.’

“The team grades are not affected by their decision, and the client receives all of the campaign plans books, so they can use any or all of the ideas and materials as they choose,” Matthews added.

UT Tyler mass communication students previously worked with Youth and Family Services, Camp Tyler, East Texas Food Bank, Literacy Council of Tyler, People Attempting To Help, A World for Children and Therapet.

For more information about the public relations campaigns course, contact Matthews at 903-566-7099 or mmatthews@uttyler.edu.