Recently, Associate Professor of Communication Elizabeth McLaughlin, Ph.D., presented the students of her Public Relations Strategy and Implementation Class with a unique opportunity to experience what it is truly like representing a non-profit through working with St. Joseph Scholarship Foundation. This opportunity allowed us each to showcase our skills to an actual organization in need.

Over the course of many weeks, we as a class brainstormed ideas of all the different aspects of public relations that were required to get the name of the Scholarship Foundation and one of their events, a college fair out to the public. Representative of the Scholarship Foundation, Jeanne Blad, came into class once a week to hear our ideas and give us feedback. Our first task as a class was to come up with a slogan for the Scholarship Foundation that would separate them from other existing foundations. We eventually landed on the slogan: “Finding your dream, funding your future.”  We used this slogan as a unifying idea to launch a campaign that would get the name out into the community as quickly and efficiently as possible. We divided the campaign into parts, each student covering a specific area in community relations.

I decided to cover the area of the Scholarship Foundation’s online presence, which was almost non-existent. I went onto the website that they currently had, and gleaned as much information as I could from the outdated format. I then decided to completely remake their website. While I was working on this website, other groups were working on writing letters to send to prospective students, creating flyers to put up in the local area, updating their social media presence to include Facebook and Twitter, creating public service announcements to air as a commercial on local television channels, brainstorming billboard ideas, etc.

After a few weeks of brainstorming, Blad came back into class and heard our formal proposal of how we would inform the community, not only about the Scholarship Foundation as a whole, but also about the college fair event. I anxiously presented my mock up website to Jeanne in class. This was my first experience with actually making a website to represent anyone but myself, so I was nervous at how she might view my vision. Luckily, she seemed impressed with my work and liked the new direction my website, along with the rest of the projects, was taking the Scholarship Foundation in general.

After the project was over, I received an email from Blad asking if she could have my permission to present my website to her directors for consideration. I emphatically agreed. Although my site wasn’t used, it was still exciting to think of my class assignment being presented to the board of directors for consideration. I also received another email, forwarded by McLaughlin, saying that the Scholarship Foundation had adopted the slogan and general image restoration that we had generated for them in class, and created a billboard from it.

Not only was this experience useful simply for the fact that it added significant artifacts to my portfolio, but it was also extremely rewarding to actually be learning in a real life context.  So much of the time, school involves hypothetical situations outlined in books. Working with the Scholarship Foundation, however, was a real life situation where our ideas were actually used by an organization that needed our public relations advice. This made the work I put into my projects all the more important to me, because I knew that I wasn’t just completing a homework assignment; I was proposing a website reformation to an existing company.

The College Fair and Financial Aid Seminar will be held on Tuesday, October 2, 2012, at the Century Center in South Bend, Ind., from 6-7:30 p.m. Admission and parking is free.