KU News Release


July 15, 2009
Contact: Andi Witczak, Center for Service Learning, (785) 864-0965

KU graduate students use classroom lessons to help local homeless shelter

LAWRENCE — By the end of July, University of Kansas graduate students in a service-learning course will collaborate with the Lawrence Community Shelter to help reinforce fact and dispel fiction about Lawrence’s homeless and homelessness.

Simran Sethi, the Lacy C. Haynes Professional-in-Residence at KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, is teaching the graduate course, titled Communicating Social and Environmental Initiatives, at KU’s Edwards Campus in Overland Park. Students will spend time at the Lawrence shelter, interview staff and residents and, informed by their research and course learning, will create strategic communications materials for the shelter.

The class turns its attention toward the shelter at a critical time. With the closing of the Salvation Army emergency shelter at the beginning of June, the Lawrence Community Shelter, 214 W. 10th St., became the only overnight emergency shelter in the city.

The application of in-class learning to a practical setting is what makes Sethi’s a service-learning class. Incorporating service learning not only fosters a better understanding of the material but also can act as a catalyst for innovative leadership and social responsibility.

In this instance of service learning, four groups of four to five students each will focus on elements of communication for the shelter: the shelter newsletter, the Change of Heart quarterly newspaper produced mostly by homeless people in Lawrence, and a presentation for potential donors.

Students’ final materials will be presented to Lawrence Community Shelter Director Loring Henderson from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 25, from the Edwards Campus. The class materials will be disseminated at the shelter’s discretion. A five-part series of blogs and video posts will be created for lawrence.com.

Sethi uses the metaphor of “conversation” to frame the communications materials that will be created.

“If the message grows out of that concept — people talking with each other in an interactive, respectful way, rather than being talked at by experts or media — then it should substantially change the tenor of the conversation,” she said.

Sethi said she hopes her class can help.

“There are many messages in the public realm about the homeless and homelessness,” said Sethi. “We will seek to emphasize fact and dispel rumors through education and outreach. We are trying to reframe the discussion in much larger terms of systemic problems and solutions.”

Students participating in the service learning project with the shelter this summer are listed here by hometown, level in school, major, parents’ names and previous schools attended.

DOUGLAS COUNTY
From Lawrence 66047
Trey Armand Williams, master’s degree student in business; bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame.

From Lawrence 66049
Angela N. Jones, master’s degree student in business; bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland-College Park.

JOHNSON COUNTY
From Leawood 66224
Erin Lea Pursel, master’s degree student in journalism; daughter of Mike and Terry Pursel; bachelor’s degree in journalism from KU; Blue Valley High School in Stilwell.

From Lenexa 66215
Victor Anend Vijayakirthi, master’s degree student in business; bachelor’s degree from the University of Madras, India.

From Lenexa 66220
Jason P. Merckling, nondegree-seeking student; master’s degree from Baker University; master’s degree from Emporia State University.

From Overland Park 66207
Margaret E. Cox, nondegree-seeking student; bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University.

Margaret Ruth Kolb, master’s degree student in journalism; bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis.

From Overland Park 66213
Monica B. Delaorra, master’s degree student in journalism; daughter of Frank and Norma Delaorra; with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from KU; Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, Overland Park.

Christine Dawn Weremy, master’s degree student in journalism; bachelor’s degree from Marquette University.

From Overland Park 66214
Cynthia Olsen, nondegree-seeking student; bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland-College Park.

From Shawnee 66216
Holly Elaine Eitel, master’s degree student in journalism; bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Davis.

From Westwood 66205
Ian Battie Nyquist, master’s degree student in journalism; bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

PRATT COUNTY
From Pratt 67124
Pauline Ann Horton, master’s degree student in journalism; daughter of Blake and Chris Himmelwright; bachelor’s degree in journalism from KU; Pratt High School.

WYANDOTTE COUNTY
From Kansas City 66109
David Mark Dunn, master’s degree student in journalism; bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

MISSOURI
From Kansas City 64111
Jennifer Marie Brown, master’s degree student in journalism; bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Missouri.
Elizabeth Ann Davis, master’s degree student in journalism; bachelor’s degree from Washburn University, Topeka, Kan.

Carrie Kathleen Shoptaw, master’s degree student in journalism; bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City; Shawnee Mission West High School, Overland Park, Kan.

From Kansas City 64155
Jennifer Edwards, master’s degree student in journalism; bachelor’s degree from Washburn University, Topeka, Kan.


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