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Kent State Stark Communication Studies Professor Reinforces Importance of Service Learning

Posted March 19, 2012 | Katie Fickle

Kent State Stark students in Professor Lisa Waite's Organizational Training and Development course teamed up with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Organization to help with its communications initiatives.

For the last three fall semesters Lisa Waite, communication studies professor, has been engaging her students in a service-learning project through the Organizational Training and Development course offered at Kent State University at Stark.

Students team up with a local nonprofit organization to assist with its communication initiatives as part of the class requirement. In the past, students assisted clients such as United Way 2-1-1, and last fall, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Organization. Next year Waite’s students will support Pathway Caring for Children, a local nonprofit organization, in its communication goals. The North Canton nonprofit is dedicated to placing children in foster care.

“I think it is important not to just take from the community, but to give back as well,” says Waite.

The university offers the course to junior and senior communication students to give them an opportunity to research and develop a communication plan to help organizations reach out to their target audiences.

Elizabeth McFarland
, senior organizational communication student, says she enjoyed meeting with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Organization officials and determining their communication needs.

“We performed a survey and asked what they needed help with in their organization,” says McFarland.
“Once we reviewed the results, we gave them ideas of how to accomplish their goals and make work-life more efficient and effective.”

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Organization has a large economic impact on the Stark area, but it struggles with using social media to promote events and creative strategies to recruit younger volunteers, Waite says. The students researched how the organization could become closer with the community. The class developed and implemented a communication plan to further assist the organization.

“It was difficult at first because you think the client is not going to listen to a bunch of college students, and that it will be a waste of time, but in the end they actually enjoyed our presentation and used our ideas,” McFarland says.

After 15 weeks of researching, planning and implementing, the students leave the class with more than “3 credit hours and a grade,” Waite says.

Waite teaches the course, but she learns from her students as well.

“Each experience is unique,” Waite says. “I am reminded how much students have an altruistic nature. They rise to the occasion and demonstrate commitment to the course and to the community.”

McFarland says this course has been an extraordinary experience, and she will keep these lessons with her throughout her career.

“Professor Waite is a great professor,” McFarland says. “Her enthusiasm is contagious. She makes you want to succeed in everything you do. I learned a lot about teamwork and how to work on projects with different personalities. I also learned that clients are receptive to whatever ideas you have.”

For more information about the Communication Studies program at Kent State Stark, visit