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Students go 'beyond the bricks'
Journalism class presents PR work for local groups on community issues  

ATHENS, Ohio (March 14, 2007) -- Bojinka Bishop's Advanced Public Relations class got a double dose of real-world experience this quarter. By creating communication plans for members of the Athens community, the students got to apply their skills to professional projects and immerse themselves in community-related initiatives.

"It helped me see how diversified Athens is," senior Mariah Brown said of her experience working on a bike safety campaign, adding that the assignment helped her learn, "everything doesn't always fall into place, but you have to work around it."

Bishop, Sloan Professor of Public Relations and associate professor of journalism, asked her Journalism 472 class to work with Athens City Council representatives and community members on projects they're leading. Working on topics ranging from a documentary film to Halloween to bus transit, students each interviewed clients, performed research such as surveys and focus groups, and identified strategies for increasing awareness.

"This is their capstone course so it really is an opportunity for them to demonstrate how they're going to function in the workplace," Bishop said, adding that she's always on the look-out for potential clients for this course. Bishop is an Athens City Council member and chair of the Communications Committee.

When the groups got together last week to present their work to the clients, the students, looking professional in black suits, appeared ready for the office. Each of five groups gave PowerPoint presentations, shared its detailed plan and spoke individually with its clients.

By offering statistics and in-depth information from their research to support their work, the students came off polished and prepared. Students working with council member Carol Patterson on an alternative Halloween found that community members don't want to see Halloween go away necessarily, but they would like to see it refocused to include more events. The group suggested hiring a part-time event coordinator and adding events such as a Halloween 5k and pumpkin pancake breakfast to make the event more appealing to a broad cross-section of Athenians.

Patterson, who acknowledged the students had a challenging project, said, "I want to thank you for going at it and talking to folks and finding out what's going on."

A group working on a way to improve relations between students and Athens City Council shared ideas from their communication plan "Beyond the Bricks: Laying a Foundation for a Better Athens," such as having council register a float in the Homecoming parade, having "Chew it over with City Council" lunches and naming October Athens History Month. Patterson, the group's client, responded.

"What you ended up doing is creating a project that is useful not only for city council but for the chamber and the university," she said. "I see lots of things that could work communitywide that could help with the relationship between the community and students."

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Media Contact: Media Specialist George Mauzy, 740-597-1794 or mauzy@ohio.edu

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