Center for Academic Service - Learning
University of Wisconsin-Superior
Swenson Hall 2047
Belknap and Catlin
P.O. Box 2000
Superior, WI 54880
Monday - Friday
8:00am - 4:00pm
Center for Academic Service - Learning
News and Events Details
Each spring semester Communicating Arts instructor Mary Tripp accompanies around 15 UW-Superior and WITC students to Superior Days, a two-day regional effort in which people from Superior, Douglas County, and northwestern Wisconsin lobby about local issues with their representatives in Madison.
In the prerequisite course, "Public Relations", students spend a few weeks coordinating or advertising an event with a local non-profit organization. Tripp helps students create a business plan, which serves as a guide to ensure a successful project. "Public Relations Cases and Problems"includes the same type of plan, but students must now execute a project based on Superior Days. Superior Days takes place in late February and students are finished with course obligations before spring break in mid-March. Due to the shortened class length, students meet once before the end of the previous fall semester to decide what project suits their major or field of interest.
From planning to implementation
Projects vary from planning one of three receptions to snapping photos for local media outlets. Some students work together while others take on solo ventures. Each student must accomplish varying amounts of work throughout the course. UW-Superior junior Zach Olson chose to create the "Parade of Products", an annual poster display that features photos of influential Superior Days participants and a slideshow of various presentations. Olson says he underestimated the amount of work he should have done before Superior Days. "I struggled through the last few hours before my display went up. I could have planned things better with the photographer. And I should have printed things out beforehand." Olson worked on his project alone but the display's photos were supplied by another student who worked on the event's digital media plan.
'We were in sheer panic'
UW-Superior senior Dolly Thygeson teamed up with classmate Elissa Crowley to prepare the Youth Reception. The pair brought together decorations, refreshments, prizes and a guest speaker for the high school students in attendance. Thygeson says the reception didn't go as smoothly as she predicted. "We got down to the room early to decorate and we saw that another group was already meeting in there," said Thygeson. "We were in sheer panic when everyone cleared out because we didn't have enough time to everything before students showed up." Then "another classmate showed up and asked if we needed help. If he hadn't, it would have all gone awry." Adding to their dismay, their guest speaker, Attorney General J.B. Hollen, showed up early. Yet, Thygeson says she was satisfied with how they handled the situation. "Things all seemed to go wrong but they all worked out. I was so glad Mary had us plan for the worst."
One of the unusual experiences Superior Days offers is the chance for participants to lobby to up to six state representatives. Teams of six attendees meet with representatives on the final day of the event hoping to harvest support for six legislative issues affecting northwestern Wisconsin. Issues this year featured the possibility of creating the Superior Research Institute and reinstatement of the Wisconsin-Minnesota Tax Reciprocity Agreement. Thygeson, a speech communication major, says Wisconsin Rep. Mary Hubler appreciated her main interest. "Mary Hubler and I really hit it off when my lobby team visited her. We got off topic once I told her my major. She said it was the best major to have because it was so versatile. We also realized we have a shared love for the Wizard of Oz," laughed Thygeson.
Inspiration through example
Guest speakers are also an instrumental part of the Superior Days experience. This year, students met with a public relations professional from Wal-Mart, a lobbyist for the city of Superior, two Douglas County board members, Superior Mayor Dave Ross and German toy company Haba president, Lea Culliton. "It was great to be able to ask them questions about their professions," said Olson. Olson says he respected what Culliton had to say about leaving a past job.
"She shared that she left a company because she didn't support their ethics. She emphasized that we will likely switch jobs often as we mature in the workaday world." Thygeson, a spring 2010 graduate, says she's more optimistic about her future outside of college. "The people I met had a variety of backgrounds. I learned there are so many options out there for students once they graduate."
Reflecting on a job well done
"Public Relations Cases and Problems" and its prerequisites may change during the 2010-2011 school year as the courses moves from the Communicating Arts to the Business Department. "Change happens," says Tripp, who is still unsure of whether or not she will teach the course next spring. She has made the trip to Madison with WITC students for the past eight years and UW-Superior students for seven. "I thought it was a good relationship builder between the two schools where the technical college students could interact with the UWS students, and vice versa and I've had several students transfer from WITC to UWS." Tripp says she will miss teaching students at Superior Days, if it doesn't work out in the future. "There's a certain energy and enthusiasm that the students create as part of this course that is unlike any other course I teach. There are certainly some challenges associated with it, but the results at the end are usually students who come back very engaged in the process. They're proud of their accomplishments and to me, that's very exciting to be around."
"Public Relations Cases and Problems" is part of the Academic Service-Learning program at UW-Superior. Academic Service-Learning enables students to apply concepts and skills they learn in the classroom and give that knowledge back to the community.
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