By Katherine Cho, Colin Powell Center Service-Learning Coordinator
The 2012 Fall Semester partnered service-learning professor Lynne Scott-Jackson and her Public Relations writing class with the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR). Alliance for Lupus Research, the world’s largest private funder for lupus research, focuses on preventing, treating, and curing lupus. (For more information, please visit ALR’s website.)
ALR’s Adrienne Herrera, Courtney Love, and Elizabeth Vega introduced the organization’s mission and present information about lupus to Lynne’s class. After the initial meeting, students separated into the following groups: women, men, college students, children, physicians, and immigrants. The students, then used the semester to research their respective target audiences, create promotional materials such as radio sound bytes, and narrow recommendations to give at their end-of-semester presentation.
During the final presentation, students wowed the ALR staff with their recommendations. In particular, student presenter, Tonye Foshta-Lynch discussed reaching physicians and multi-cultural health blogs since lupus disproportionately African-Americans, Latin@s, Asians, and Native Americans. She continued with recommendations of creating children-friendly pamphlets and coloring books about lupus in order to jumpstart children’s education about the disease. Similarly, Raras Nikentari also recommended targeting medical student blogs to ensure that these future physicians would have up-to-date information about lupus research, prevention, treatment, and diagnosis.
The closing remarks and subsequent Q&A turned into an impromptu focus group for ALR as students shared their own trends, tips, and experiences with social media, from Twitter to Tumblr, to Wordpress and Pinterest. By being one of the targeted groups, students were able to provide relevant data to ALR, just through their own experiences of hash tags, Facebook likes, and comment posts.
For Lynne, who has had several community partners in the years she taught service-learning, she described this experience as especially meaningful due to the deeper connection she had with the organization. ALR and Lynne’s relationship first started the summer prior when Lynne joined ALR’s Multi-Cultural Task Force, and through those meetings, she was able to forge a relationship that delved deeper to address ALR’s focus. Her class described a similar sentiment; several of the students had personal connections with lupus, expressing this partnership as one that hit close to home and gave them new tools, rhetoric, and vision to help spread lupus awareness and fight for a cure.