UT Tyler Office of Marketing and Communications

UT Tyler Students Aid Local Non-Profits through Mass Communication Capstone Course

May 4, 2016

Media Contact:  Hannah Buchanan
Editorial Specialist and PR Manager
Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at Tyler
903.565.5769 or 903.539.7196 (cell)

Undergraduate mass communication students at The University of Texas at Tyler are provided real-world learning experiences by aiding local non-profit 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 non-profit 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 non-profit.

"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 non-profit 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 – aptly 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.

"We're responsible for every aspect of the book so developing a quality product is important. I feel I've gained a 'make it happen' attitude," Mosley added.

The defining moment arrives as 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. "The students have worked hard and the 'payoff' is knowing which team would be hired."

And so while there is no 'winner' per se, everyone wins, according to Leslie Lindsey, community outreach coordinator for the Alliance.

"The university's intellectual capital and professional expertise is a huge resource for our community," said Lindsey. "Not only does this gives students some practical, on-the-job experience that their future employers will value, but it also helps nonprofits stretch their dollar further to serve our missions. We are thrilled to partner on this project."

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, 903.566.7099 or mmatthews@uttyler.edu.

The UT Tyler Department of Communication offers bachelor's degrees in mass communication and speech communication and a master of arts in communication, each tailored to students' specific interests and abilities.

For additional information, call 903.566.7253 or visit the department's homepage.

One of the 14 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler features excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 8,500 high-ability students. UT Tyler offers courses at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine as well as a location in Houston.