Coms 101 student getting starting stuff

Students in COMS 101 were challenge to "trade up" from menial items to bigger ones.

Photographer: Brad Vest

Items students started with

Starting with small items, such as a fan or a Halloween candy bucket, students received donations for Good Works.

Photographer: Brad Vest

Students trading for a fan

Students were required to work together and communicate effectively to negotiate trades.

Photographer: Brad Vest

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Trading up

COMS 101 community service project teaches group problem solving, benefits Good Works

The more than 400 students enrolled in this quarter’s COMS 101 sections were presented with an interesting challenge at the beginning of class earlier this month: to work as groups to take ordinary objects, such as a box of raisins or an office fan, around campus and “trade up” for more valuable objects to be donated to Athens’ local Good Works charity. 

This year’s event began with random objects valued at about $50 and ended with items valued at more than $5,000 for donation to Good Works. The exercise, assigned by course director and instructor Joe Mazer, is intended to teach group conflict resolution while helping out a local charity.

“Group members persuade and negotiate with people across campus to ‘trade up’ their items,” Mazer said. “Through that process, group conflict arises, and students have to negotiate as a group as to how to best go about it.”

This year’s winning item was a $50 check for Good Works. A Playstation with 20 games, a microwave, $35 in gift certificates to Zoe Restaurant and a basketball signed by the OHIO men’s basketball team rounded out the top five places. Students on the winning team received 10 points extra credit, while those on the finalist teams received 5 points.

Charlie Blachford of Good Works, says the items collected from the project are used in the organization’s Celebrating YOU and Health Education initiatives. He believes the project is also positive in that it connects Ohio University students with the reality of poverty that some area residents experience every day.

“This is a wonderful project,” Blachford said. “College students are the leaders of tomorrow, so it is so important that they have a broad perspective and understanding about the communities they live in so they can guide society as it ought to be.”

The annual project has gained a reputation among communication studies students, said Ryan Mayock, who participated as a COMS 101 student several years ago and now serves as one of three supervisory teaching assistants for the 36 teaching assistants who teach sections of COMS 101.

“It definitely stands out in my memory as a class project,” said Mayock, who remembers his group beginning with a ball and paddle and finishing the project with a mini-fridge. “It’s something you don’t get a chance to do in other classes. Not only is it related to course content, but it helps the community as well.”

Mazer said several people within the university community have come to know the project and have been generous in helping it to succeed.

“In the past, we have had a $100 gift card for Bennigan’s, unopened iPods, and a digital video camera with a tour of the President’s house given by First Lady Deborah McDavis—things that people at Good Works might find great use for,” Mazer said.

Mazer sees the exercise as a win-win for students and says that incorporating community service into the classroom is a great practice.

“It’s a great way for one of the biggest classes on campus to have an impact on the campus community and on the Athens community,” Mazer said. “We’re happy to donate to the cause.”

Related Links

Scripps College of Communication Good Works*

Additional Info

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