Jan 27, 2015

Students Gain Real World Experience

Columbia State students and their instructor with Dawn Sears (center)

(COLUMBIA, Tenn. - Jan. 27, 2015) - Nine dedicated students from Columbia State Community College recently had the opportunity to combine classroom learning with real-life experience. Through their participation in creating and implementing a real world campaign, students in the Introduction to Public Relations class partnered with CountryWired.com to help raise more than $100,000 for lung cancer research through the Dawn Sears and Friends Concert, held Nov. 30 in Gallatin.

Eleven days after the fundraiser, Dawn Sears, a member of Nashville's western swing group, The Time Jumpers, lost her battle to lung cancer.

Rebecca Peden, adjunct mass communication instructor at Columbia State, assigns projects in each of her courses. She strives to bring relevant assignments that will prepare students for the world of public relations.

"Every semester I find a project for my students to do to gain first-hand experience working in the field of public relations," Peden said. "Stephanie Orr, co-founder and president of CountryWired.com, presented me with this opportunity to not only help raise funds and awareness for lung cancer research, but also to work with top-tier names such as Vince Gill and The Time Jumpers, Reba McEntire and Scott Hamilton. I was ecstatic."

There are many levels of PR for Peden's students to explore - from researching the audience for this particular event to reaching out and communicating the message to helping make the event go smoothly.

During the semester, students made cold calls and sent emails to local media including television, radio, print media, websites and blogs. They handed out fliers in Columbia, Spring Hill and on Music Row. They were also tasked with selling tickets to the concert as well as soliciting donations and sponsorships.

Peden said this group of students was dedicated and worked diligently in and out of the classroom. She commented that they gained a 360-degree view of working an event from the public relations angle.

"It's not all pretty," Peden explained. "It's not all grip and grin. You do what you have to do to get the job done. My students did all that and more. I am so proud to call them my students. "

Stephanie Orr from CountryWired.com said she was also impressed with how hard the Columbia State students were willing to work.

"The PR Class is how I envision college should be," Orr said. "Peden's class is a team that divides and conquers with a great team effort. I found each student unique and excited to learn the subject. It says a lot about the school, the class and the teacher. Kudos!"