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PR students lend a hand -- and a plan -- to two area not-for-profits
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Melissa Lawrence and President Hefner

Senior Melissa Lawrence talks about the PR curriculum at Fredonia and how it has prepared her class for the real-world project they are about to undertake. President Dennis L. Hefner listens.

SUNY Fredonia announced today that 25 students enrolled in its Public Relations Management course will partner with The Chautauqua County Rural Ministry and The Chautauqua County Fair and Agriculture Association.

View the Photo Album of the news conference>>

The students, working in smaller groups that will act like agencies, will create complete public relations campaigns, from conception through execution and evaluation, for the not-for-profit organizations.

"SUNY Fredonia has a strong commitment to ensuring students have opportunities to engage in community service activities,” said SUNY Fredonia President Dennis L. Hefner. “One exceptional example of this commitment is our public relations capstone class, which, for the past decade, has assisted local non-profit organizations by providing them with authentic and relevant public relations plans. This unique course has allowed students to gain real-world experiences, while helping two worthy non-profit organizations that contribute significantly to the quality of life in our region.”

Throughout this semester, the students, mostly seniors, will develop a detailed binder that will outline a proposed plan, making it simple for each organization to implement in the future. By the end of the course, the groups will pitch their plans to the organization for possible execution.

Although the campaigns are theoretical, Course Instructor Mike Barone has encouraged the students take into consideration real-life challenges the organizations face, such as staff, time, and budget constraints. Mr. Barone is also director of public relations for SUNY Fredonia in addition to serving as an adjunct professor in the department of communication.

Senior PR major Victoria Roberts is interviewed by the media during her capstone PR class, at which she and 24 classmates announced that they will be creating PR plans for two area not-for-profit organizations.

In addition to the students and President Hefner, speakers at the press conference included Kathleen Peterson, Executive Director of The Chautauqua County Rural Ministry, Randall Brown, President of The Chautauqua County Fair and Agriculture Association, and Virginia Horvath, Vice President for Academic Affairs at SUNY Fredonia.

Dr. Horvath spoke about a new initiative underway at the university, which integrates the concept of “service learning” into a variety course syllabi, and the public relations capstone class has for years been an example of this important educational facet. The university is now taking this concept a step further, with the formation of the Fredonia Academic Community Engagement (FACE) Center, to more formally promote campus and community collaboration in the areas of civic engagement, sustainability, service learning, and community-based research.

The Chautauqua Country Rural Ministry is an interfaith, non-denominational human service agency that was started in the 1950s by a group of individuals concerned with the welfare of area migrant workers and others living in poverty. Over the years, the organization has expanded its focus to include all people struggling to meet their basic needs. Each year, thousands of families are assisted with the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and work opportunities through the organization’s 12 programs.

Senior PR major Jessi Luke gives a student perspective on the partnerships with the Chautauqua County Fair and Chautauqua County Rural Ministry at a press conference which was created and managed by the students in COMM 422.

 The Chautauqua County Agricultural and Fair Association was formed in 1873 as an “agricultural society” and incorporated in 1972. A tradition over a century old,the fair continues to draw crowds annually. It places a strong focus on providing entertainment, food, and fun for all ages, while promoting agricultural education and awareness within the county.

The public relations capstone course has partnered with not-for-profit organizations every spring semester since 2001. Past organizations include: Das Puppenspiel Puppet Theater (2009), Boys & Girls Club of Northern Chautauqua County (2009), The 1891 Fredonia Opera House (2008), Literacy Volunteers (2008), Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy (2007), Lakeshore Humane Society (2007), Chautauqua Adult Day Services (2006), YWCA of Westfield (2005), United Way of Northern Chautauqua County (2004), Lake Shore Family Center (2003), Centaur Stride (2002), and Silver Creek Montessori School (2001).

To learn more, contact public relations majors Lauren Wilbur at (607) 341-3032 or, or Brooke Salvatore at (716) 713-5625 or

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