What better way to prepare for a career then to work on real projects with real clients to produce real deliverables? This is what students do as part of their UnClassrom experience in Public Relations 340 with Regina Bell. They partner with prominent organizations like AIDS Project Rhode Island and Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island, and design, develop, and implement a multifaceted public relations campaign for them to increase awareness for their mission among URI students. This past semester, they even got an endorsement from a prominent country music artist, Billy Gilman, who lives in Rhode Island and who attended a clothing drive event on campus which was part of the public relations campaign that students planned.
This course specifically, and the UnClassroom initiative more generally, provide students with much-needed practical experience to pair with theoretical class-based learning. UnClassroom courses encourage students to accept leadership roles and become responsible for playing the part of a media relations specialist, event manager, social media strategist, or online editor and writer, to name a few of the positions students own as part of their semester-long projects.
To start, students become familiar with their client, conduct their research, and meet with representatives from these organizations who visit them on campus. From there, the students determine the most effective way to proceed.
In the case of AIDS Project Rhode Island and Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island, the goal is to increase awareness of these organizations among URI students. Students in the UnClassroom course spend a few weeks collaborating with one another, choosing a plan of action, and drafting a project blueprint that they propose to their client. Once the client approves the blueprint, the students are ready to get down to business. They schedule and orchestrate events, collaborate with partner organizations, and study and practice the protocols for effectively engaging in traditional and social media marketing.
“These collaborative efforts with AIDS Project Rhode Island and Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island result in students gaining practical exposure to critical analysis—a core component of the PR curriculum. The students react positively to opportunities to link concepts discussed in class with real situations that are within their realm of responsibility,” says Regina Bell, a PR advisor and professor.
At the end of the semester, students prepare a final report through Prezi and PowerPoint presentations to their clients. The result: students gain experience in designing, developing, and implementing public relations campaigns; the organizations they partner with get projects that further their mission; and students have the opportunity to network with leaders in the Rhode Island community.