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University Relations

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June 23, 2008
Contact: Andi Witczak, Center for Service Learning, (785) 864-0960.

Journalism students use classroom lessons to benefit clients

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LAWRENCE — University of Kansas students enrolled in Principles of Advertising this spring teamed with the Center for Service Learning and used classroom lessons to help two organizations improve their marketing strategies.

Bob Basow, associate professor of journalism, and Amelia Roudebush, graduate teaching assistant, arranged the service learning projects for the class. Basow worked with six teams of six students to promote the Lawrence Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Roudebush’s six teams promoted KU’s Department of Student Housing.

Students submitted weekly diaries and timesheets to document learning and experience gained.

“Early in their career, students may expect to volunteer to help a number of pro bono clients,” said Roudebush, a master’s degree in journalism from Topeka. “Being able to show that they are willing and able to work on a project ‘for the public good’ makes an excellent impression on prospective employers.”

The ReStore sells donated building materials, appliances and overstocked goods to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity. Although the ReStore has been operating for two and a half years, its staff recently became concerned about the effectiveness of their marketing strategies. They found that it was a challenge to develop strategies while working within the means of a nonprofit budget.

The students began by touring the store, facilitating customer surveys, examining marketing and customer buying trends and studying the ReStore financials. The students then presented their findings to the ReStore staff and volunteers. They identified target markets and respective marketing and loyalty strategies and suggested specific low- or no-cost ReStore promotion in tandem with cost-effective advertising strategies.

Bonnie Briscoe, a Habitat for Humanity director, said that the students’ research and recommendations will help the Lawrence ReStore for years to come. Writing to Basow, she said, “We will be conscious of the wisdom you have shared and the generosity you and your students have shown in giving back to the community through your efforts in this project.”

Meanwhile, the other half of the class worked with Roudebush to enhance occupancy in KU student housing facilities. They created strategies based on findings from focus groups held at four of the university’s residence halls.

Through their research, they developed the following strategies: early communication with potential first-year residents by targeting juniors and seniors in high school before they are accepted to KU; utilizing the Web and promoting KU housing on Facebook.com; delivering information to students early and often; use of video; and launching a campaign to portray KU housing as more than “just a room.” The department is still deciding which of the strategies to implement.

“The students’ presentations provided us with very good ideas and tangible strategies that we can implement to meet our objectives,” said Diana Robertson, director of the Department of Student Housing. “We’re very appreciative of the opportunity to benefit from these professionals-in-training.”

Basow said that educational work like this shows his students that the skills they gain from the classroom extend to the working world.

“The teams worked collaboratively, not competitively, to learn about their client’s needs, to conduct original research and to present an effective solution,” he said. “Service learning projects like this help students apply what they are learning to a real-world situation. It is especially meaningful to them when they realize that their work has value and can actually help someone accomplish a worthwhile goal.”

Bill Nolan, a master's degree student in journalism from Omaha, Neb., said the service learning project was a unique way to simultaneously gain real-world experience and help promote a worthy cause.

“Conducting original research and making recommendations based on the findings was the greatest learning experience for me,” he said. “This project seamlessly blended the service aspect and educational mission to create a very rewarding experience.”

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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