PR students get hands-on experience with 'Extreme Makeover'
By Brooke Barker
October 23, 2006 |Six students lost
their social lives, personal lives and all sense of
time, while working around the clock on the biggest
service project to hit Cache Valley.
"I found it addictive to be here,"
said Jon Perry, a senior in public relations. "It
would come time to leave after a full day of being here,
and I'd just want to stay so I wouldn't turn my head
and miss anything."
For the past month, Perry and his
five classmates have been organizing Extreme Makeover:
Home Edition, along with Politis Communications, a Salt
Lake City PR firm.
Members of the six-person team, along with other teams
from their class, got some professional experience writing
press releases, coordinating media on-site, helping
out on the set, organizing fund-raisers in the community,
activities on campus and putting together the benefit
concert and pre-show activities.
The six students are part of Troy
Oldham's and Les Roka's Journalism 5320 class: PR Agency.
The class is designed to give senior public relations
students some hands-on experience with real clients.
This semester there are 20 students enrolled in the
class, who are divided into teams involving three different
"The overwhelming comment I hear
from my PR students is, 'What am I going to do with
my PR degree?' and now they know and are excited about
it," said Oldham. "One thing you don't normally
get as a student is to work with different business
leaders. These guys became part of the core team, and
no one looked twice at them as students."
"They pulled their own weight
and gained what every student needs: confidence."
Each student on the team had a different role in making
the event come together. Allison Furniss was the team's
leader; Jon Perry became the media relations person
for the week; Cam Cope was the event coordinator for
activities like the benefit concert and pre-show activities;
Lindsay Thomson had a job for the week with ABC as a
production assistant from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.; Trish Taggart
was the team's creative director, designing banners,
t-shirts and as a talent scout instrumental in bringing
Isaac Hayden, Ryan Shupe and sports stars from Salt
Lake; Lindy Phippen worked with web developers, writing
different backgrounds for the website and the daily
Oldham said they were also responsible
for working with the media, looking for stories to pitch
and coordinating interviews. The other two teams from
the class also got involved, planning activities on
campus such as the clothing drive and service projects.
Oldham believes that every student
involved with the project will get his first PR job
based on this experience, by explaining his role in
making the event come together.
"The students were responsible
for raising money, which wasn't ever part of our goal,"
The students sold nearly $20,000 in
t-shirts, raised about $14,000 at the benefit concert
and had donation jars set up on campus.
"It was really stressful, and
a lot of things changed throughout the week," said
Oldham. "The students had to be mature enough to
hand off their ideas, and let the production staff run
with them they wanted."
He said most of the students were
surprised to look back on the weeklong event and see
some of their ideas, such as the Polynesian dance teams
and community events, incorporated into the show. Curtis
Gasser, a senior account executive for Politis, worked
with the students throughout the week, helping with
hands-on experience and real-world education.
"All of the students were eager
and willing to do anything asked of them."
"They've been really excited
about the event," said Gasser. "There were
moments for example, when they didn't know what a media
alert was, but they did their best. We were here to
help facilitate learning, and I think we accomplished
At the end of the week, the students
had a few more contacts in their network, a better understanding
of their major, and a lot of memories from being on-site.
Oldham believes they learned a lot and will be better
prepared for their first job.
"I learned that everyone is so
similar in the professional world and at school,"
said Perry. "Everyone did their part, the creative
processes went full-circle, and I felt very much a part
of the process."
More information about the class or
public relations major at USU can be found online at
http://www.usu.edu/communic/, or by calling the journalism
department at (435)797-3292.