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AD/PR students execute campaigns for local nonprofits

Advertising and public relations students in Elizabeth Oppe’s fall 2023 capstone course crafted campaigns for three different nonprofit organizations: Get Moving!, GATC Health and the NorthHills Association. The course operates like a firm where students have direct contact with clients and produce tangible results and deliverables on a deadline.

“The students established relationships and were committed to their clients,” said Oppe, a teaching professor in the Reed College of Media. “This happens organically when the students have a genuine interest and passion in helping the community and their client. Each team went above and beyond to meet their client's needs and expectations, with an ever evolving and changing set of circumstances. It is a truly rich learning experience.”

ADPR Capstone Students in Martin Hall

Students in Oppe’s capstone course chat about their elevator pitches before presenting to the clients. Photo by Maddie Stratos.

At the beginning of the semester, a representative from each of the three organizations joined Oppe during a class session for student pitches. Each student shared details about their unique skill set, preferred client, and the agency position they hoped to fill — account executive, creative director, community relations/public relations, media relations or research director. Once teams and positions were solidified, the students began conducting client research, identifying deliverables and developing a budget and timeline to execute their respective campaigns.

“Leadership roles always intimidated me, so that was the first hurdle I had to get over,” said senior Carleigh Abbott, who was named account executive for the GATC Health group. “Learning how to work with a new group of people is already hard, and then to be the one to delegate tasks and oversee everything was an added layer of stress. But this experience proved that I can, in fact, manage it. The project really helped me learn how to lean on others and utilize the power of having a team. My team was great and they made the whole process so much easier and more fun than I had anticipated."

The rest of the GATC Health team included Paul Henry, Nora Holmes, George Peppe and McKenzie Sardello. GATC, an organization that uses AI to enhance the future of medicine, is based in California, but is expanding to the Morgantown area with a new laboratory set to open in February 2024. Even though the capstone course concluded in December 2023, the student team will carry out the planning and execution of an open house event for local residents to learn more about the company on National Science Day (Feb. 28) in the GATC Lab facility.

ADPR student Rylee Reese shows a flier

Account Executive Rylee Reese flashes a flier made for the North Hills Association “Bring Back the Unity in Community” event. Photo by Israa Alzayer (BSJ, 2023).

Account Executive Rylee Reese, Israa Alayzar, James Brennan and Maddie Stratos were the student team working for the North Hills Association, a Morgantown neighborhood group that works to solve problems in the area related to such things as snow removal, road and streetlight repairs and more. The North Hills Association campaign focused on three things:strengthening the sense of community for residents, increasing the organization’s online presence and increasing the number of dues-paying members. Among other campaign components, the students organized a neighborhood event featuring food, face-painting and other activities. Association members were able to use this event to share information with neighborhood residents and encourage them to join.

“During the course of this effort I’ve taken quite a bit of time reflecting on the work of this group,” said North Hills Association member Randall Levelle. “They were polished, focused, and directed toward an end. Not only an end in and of itself, but one that better ensures long-term impact for our group and our needs. The students exceeded my expectations.”

The third client, Get Moving!, was founded by Oppe to improve obesity rates in West Virginia. Annual Day of Play events provide an opportunity for children throughout the state to exercise and play games with WVU athletes. The nonprofit is also currently working with the FrenchFootball Federation to expand soccer opportunities for youth of all ages across the UnitedStates. Student Account Executive Julie Bush managed campaign teams that included studentsKaleb Ridlon and Shannon Law for Get Moving! and Haylee Mataeo and Jordan Washington for the French Football Federation. The two groups worked together to plan and host a Mini Day of Play at Mylan Elementary School in October that featured WVU athletes and marching band members.

Students pose with Musket mascot at the Day of Play eventThe Get Moving! team gathered for a group picture at the Mini Day of Play event. L-R: Shannon Law, Jordan Washington, Kaleb Ridlon, Haylee Mataeo, and Julie Bush. Photo by Maddie Stratos.

After executing their respective campaigns, each student team measured the outcomes of their work, presented results to their client and delivered a campaign book that included details on the organization’s background and current position, audience segmentation, budget, timeline and more. This capstone course, like others offered in the Reed College of Media, is both experiential and service-learning based, so students learn how to work on real client campaigns while supporting local and state nonprofit and news organizations.

“Service-learning blends community service, education, business and communication, which are all vitally important to me,” said Oppe, whose experience with a family-owned community grocery store inspired her to pursue service learning in her research and professional work. “My parents taught me that a business will remain sustainable and competitive because of the relationships established in the community. My desire is to have students serve their community and establish sustainable relationships with businesses and other community members that will build an alliance for making a difference.”