Students in Communication 408 designed webpages and social media plans for local nonprofit organizations this fall.

Service communication

UD students create online media for local nonprofit organizations

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8:05 a.m., Dec. 20, 2012--As part of the interactive media minor, University of Delaware students in Danna Young’s New Media Project Development class spent the semester designing websites, social media guides and other online tools for local nonprofit organizations.

The minor is designed to be an interdisciplinary program that gives students from different majors a chance to collaborate on projects with real world applications, according to Young, assistant professor of communication.

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Working in small groups, students conducted thorough research for their chosen nonprofit and put together plans to increase the organization’s online presence.

The capstone class allows students to create something meaningful while benefiting budget-conscious nonprofit organizations at the same time, said Young. 

“The projects varied widely based on the different needs of the nonprofit,” she said. “What’s really cool is the students could offer something to the organizations that they didn’t already have.”

Young designated the first six weeks of the course to research. Students used various methods to find out what the client needed and what the nonprofit’s audience wanted. 

Chris Griffith, a senior marketing major, worked with his team to create new communication tools for the Howard J. Weston Senior Center.

“After doing research and surveying potential users about what they would like this new online presence to involve, we were able to design a new website for them as well as set up a Facebook page for their users,” said Griffith.

Several of the nonprofit organizations actually implemented the websites and social media plans created by the students.

Stacy Bernstein, a senior visual communications major, worked with her group to redesign a website and create a social media presence for the DELTA safe dating project, a nonprofit organization encouraging safe and healthy relationships for teens, parents and teachers. 

“Kristen Herman, the DELTA project coordinator, told our group that we truly made an impact on the program and she was incredibly grateful,” said Bernstein.  

Herman immediately sent an appreciative email to Young after hearing the students’ presentation. 

“I just spent an hour with my student group going over the new website recommendations and survey results they had prepared, and I have to say – I am absolutely floored,” wrote Herman. “These women went above and beyond everything I asked of them, and anything I could have imagined.” 

Recognizing that many clients are often left with websites they cannot maintain, the students created detailed instructions for the nonprofits to use in the future.

Griffith’s group employed a more user-friendly website builder called Weebly — instead of designing a website from scratch — to make sure the senior center could maintain the site.

“We also provided the center with a manual and numerous video tutorials that will help them learn how to update the site,” he said. 

While Young was available to help students, she largely left them to their own devices and was impressed with what they accomplished. 

“I’m always blown away,” said Young. “I think a lot of students come away from this class realizing they are the ones in the driver’s seat. I don’t hold their hand.” 

Jennifer Kessman, a senior who also worked on the DELTA project, said the experience was unlike anything else she had done in a classroom. 

“This project benefited me in the sense that I was given a snapshot of what the real world is like,” she said. 

Her group mate, senior Kristin Gagliardi, agreed. “This is not one of those classes you soon forget.” 

Barbara Ley, associate professor of communication, will teach the course in the spring and the department is currently recruiting nonprofits.

The Office of Service Learning (OSL) coordinates faculty and community partnerships for this class. Organizations that would like to be considered as participants in the spring should contact Susan Serra, coordinator of the OSL, at serra@udel.edu.

Article by Kelley Bregenzer

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