Students raise funds for the community through Communication course

Communication students present about their service-learning project.

Students raise funds for the community through Communication course

By Colleen Bradley, Communications Intern

Breaking from the routine of attending large lectures, memorizing notes and taking exams by entering the real world and applying knowledge through service-learning can be refreshing for students. A class of Ohio State students experienced the difference during autumn semester through the Communication Dynamics in Groups (Comm 4635) course. This service-learning course allows students to work in groups, connect with an organization in the Columbus community, and give back, all while gaining skills that will aid them in the professional world.

The goal of the course is to raise at least $1,500 for a community organization. Students have the responsibility of reaching out to an organization they are passionate about working with and developing a plan of action for fundraising. Hillary Shulman, assistant professor in the School of Communication, explains that the effort is 100 percent in the hands of the students. She provides them with the skills necessary to have a positive group dynamic, but it is up to the students to apply what they have learned in class to be successful. This semester the students raised a total of $9,100 for seven organizations.

"There was this long-standing tradition to do this service-learning component," Shulman said. "You have students fundraise, they do a really good job, and it puts them out of their comfort zone. They're usually seniors, so it allows them to get into the community and have some communications with professionals whether with emailing or cold calling. People are usually really receptive because the students want to raise money for them."

The course challenges students like Sitong Zhao to think creatively and strategically. Her group worked with Vineyard Columbus, a local food pantry. In order to fundraise, her group used different tactics such as bake sales, GoFundMe and a Halloween party, where they enticed party-goers with free food and drinks, but charged an entrance fee.

Vineyard Columbus's Community Outreach Assistant Pastor Jenney Rice helped Zhao's group with fundraising coordination and goals.

"The service-learning cohort has been a delightful experience for me," Rice said. "When I met the cohort, I wanted to give them basic information and guidance, but I wanted this project to come from their experience, innovation and creativity. They embraced the project and worked together planning and implementing multiple projects that successfully met their financial goal. Our food pantries will make changes in the year 2020 from a traditional food pantry to a choice pantry. With the funds the service-learning cohort raised, we'll be purchasing equipment to store more fresh produce and fresh products to give away to our guests."

This service-learning course has taught Zhao the importance of giving back and being directly and personally involved with her community. Because of this experience, Zhao plans to stay connected to Vineyard Columbus in the future.

"It is not like I just donate money to a foodbank and I don't know where it goes," she said. "This course has let me see the direct result of what we have done for Vineyard Columbus."

Ohio State is giving students the opportunity to build connections in their communities. Whether students work with animal shelters or climate change organizations, as some groups did this semester, they are all learning how to work on projects with other group members, developing professional skills, and making real differences in their communities.