Talk about a win-win.

Development staff at Clarkson have unleashed the creative power of students to spearhead social media and public relations campaigns in support of fundraising goals.

The results: more than half a million dollars raised, and valuable experience gained for students in the Department of Communication & Media. And as a bonus, the collaboration helps the Office of Development and Alumni Relations cultivate students before they graduate and increases the odds that those young people will be lifelong active alumni.

In the fall of 2016, a new social media course taught by Communication & Media Associate Professor Jason Schmitt proved an ideal testing ground for the partnership. Twenty-four students had the opportunity to put into practice what they were learning in the classroom when the campus became both their client and their source of rich content.

To promote a one-day campaign in support of Golden Knight athletics programs, the students produced multimedia features about current student athletes, teams and successful alumni athletes and published the content across Clarkson’s social media outlets, driving traffic to Clarkson’s crowdfunding site.

Their efforts culminated in the spectacularly successful CU Athletics Giving Day on September 28, 2016, which raised some $135,000 from 3,391 donors, exceeding monetary and donor engagement goals by an estimated 680 percent. An encore project this past October raised even more funds: $139,225.

"Involvement in the Clarkson giving campaigns was a great experience and employers loved it."  

Emily Fountain '17

“Our students learned a lot working on a real campaign,” Schmitt said. “They had to understand rhetorical strategies of crafting content and utilizing impactful graphics that would be meaningful for potential donors.”

“Sometimes I completely forgot that the work I was doing was for a class,” said Alex Hill ’19, a communication major and member of the University’s baseball team. “Everyone we reached out to was eager to cooperate, and the campaign brought our already close student athletic community even closer.”

The success continued in a spring 2017 campaign supporting The Clarkson Fund. The campaign was integrated into a public relations special topics course and became a focus of Professor Stephen Farina’s video production course. This time, the efforts raised an estimated $300,000 from more than 1,400 donors, including many students and recent graduates.

Farina said students learned more than just producing and publishing media. “They unearthed valuable lessons about how to work with clients who have their own goals, their own ideas, and often operate on their own schedules,” he said.

Those lessons can translate into valuable experience. Emily Fountain ’17, a communication major with a focus on digital arts and sciences, reported that her new employer, Catapult Marketing, cited her participation in the campaigns as impressive experience that made her a standout candidate. She now works as Catapult’s legal compliance administrator for marketing and advertising.


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