Virtual service-learning & maintaining our commitment to community partners

In the photo: Students of Rebecca L. Cooney’s COMSTRAT 383 class on “CCE in the Field Day” passing out bags full of valuable product and literature from Whitman County Public Health to students on Greek Row (Nov 2019 – Pullman, WA)

Adding in-curriculum WSU Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) service-learning projects into my 300-level M-course in writing for communications transformed the way I teach, redefined the role of student in this class, and reinvigorated my passion for giving back to nonprofit organizations. Our focus: raising awareness about regionally significant community health issues.

Our work could not be more timely, relevant, and important. Whether these students meet in-person or from a distance, the impacts of #COVID-19 on our home state of Washington will not deter us from meeting our mission and delivering on-promise to our valued community partners. Assignments may change, priorities may shift, original plans may be reconsidered – but the job will get done.

There are 21 students enrolled in my class this semester who are broken up into one of three teams focused on mental health awareness, public health outreach, and food insecurity initiatives. Individually and collectively these students are supporting six regional partners by creating digital content, conceptualizing outreach strategies, writing for publishing on multiple mediums, distributing surveys, and designing promotional materials. They work collaboratively using Google Drive, Slack, email, and group text. They are led by CCE Leads – current Murrow College seniors who took this class in the past. They operate using project management best practices, consistent communication methods, and accountability metrics.

Now they are faced with the prospect of losing the convenience of proximity – the wonderful gift of in-person connected-ness we often take for granted. If Pullman campus classes move to online course delivery, these productive teams will have to embrace a new norm, rely more heavily on their already-established Google Drive environment, master their personal communication skills, and find new strength in their ability to self-direct and hold themselves to account.

I am confident we will succeed and our CCE partners will receive the same level of service and commitment. To-do lists will be reviewed and refined. We will get creative in how grassroots outreach will be reconfigured. Writing, creativity, and finished work product will be delivered. And the CCE Leads will lead the charge – giving them a chance to demonstrate new core competencies in adapting to change, staying calm under pressure, and recovering from the unexpected.

Tomorrow morning I will meet with my CCE Leads (Sam Schmitke, Casie Lynch, and Kate Thomas) so we can formalize our contingency plans should WSU go all-online and establish our strategy for managing the work over the last six weeks of class. We will brainstorm, weigh options, and prioritize the tasks we have not yet completed. We will communicate with our CCE stakeholders (thank you Jessica Perone for your unfailing support) and partners and we will proceed.

Our story is being written in real-time. Therefore, we must respond accordingly. Service to our community has never felt more important.

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”

Marianne Williamson, American author, politician, and activist

COMSTRAT 383 Media Strategies & Techniques for Public Relations spring 2020 community partners:

Learn more about the important work the dedicated employees at WSU Center for Civic Engagement are doing, as well as the valuable projects happening university-wide that are developed and led by WSU faculty, staff and students.

1 Comments on “Virtual service-learning & maintaining our commitment to community partners”

  1. Pingback: Follow-up post: Virtual service-learning and contingency planning | Rebecca L. Cooney

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