For the 15 students in Professor Lydia Chen Shah’s service-learning course, receiving a good grade was secondary. What mattered most was helping to make an impact on a child’s life.
Three teams of Cal Poly Pomona students delivered presentations to the marketing director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles to help the organization tap into a younger generation of mentors. The marketing campaigns aimed to break the stereotype of retired or older individuals as being the sole sources of mentors.
“To be a mentor, a lot of people think you have to be at a certain stage in life. They think: ‘Am I successful enough? Have I made enough money? Do I have enough of a career to be able to impact someone’s life?’ ”said Patti Johnson, the marketing director for the nonprofit organization. “It’s less about money and where you are in your career. It’s more about investing in a child’s life.”
For the IBM 499 class, the five-member teams conducted research into the organization’s mission and target audience, then composed campaign material, produced recruitment videos, and crafted social media messages and strategies for the June 9 presentations. Each team had 20 minutes to pitch their marketing campaigns.
Johnson said that components from the student presentations will be incorporated into the organization’s next marketing campaign aimed at recruiting younger mentors.
“I’m really impressed by how thoughtful the students were and how seriously they took the assignment,” Johnson said. “This has been a huge benefit because the Cal Poly Pomona students creating the message and content are also the people we are looking to reach.”
Chen Shah (’01, marketing), who is one of five Center for Community Engagement Faculty Fellows for 2015-16, added: “They came up with things that you can hire a big-name agency or a consultant to concept and deliver. They brought everything to the table. The creativity of the teams really shone through. They really looked at how to solve this, how do we give something that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles can use and put into place. I’m proud of what they presented.”
Service-learning courses are one of the founding pillars at the Center for Community Engagement. In addition to receiving practical experience, the students also learned an altruistic lesson. For some, this was this their first exposure to a nonprofit organization.
“I got to experience how it feels to work in a nonprofit organization and everything that you need to know to think creatively, logically and rationally,” said Diana Rendon, a member of the Class of 2016 who received her bachelor’s in advertising and promotion. “I do see the impact and value of nonprofits. I can make an impact for the better.”
Niko Fullmer, a fourth-year student in marketing management, works in the research department at a Pomona nonprofit organization, Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare. Fullmer said he received insights into the marketing challenges at nonprofit groups.
“This project had real-world business aspects,” Fullmer said. “You’re actually dealing with a real business that’s already established. It really did have a different impact on the way we did the project. This was more hands-on as far as actually making a campaign.”
Chen Shah has taught in the College of Business Administration for four years and worked with nonprofit organizations as part of her classes.
“Community engagement or partnership can take a lot of forms,” Chen Shah said. “It’s not just about giving money, it’s not just about fundraising. Sometimes, it’s about time. Sometimes it’s about word of mouth. Sometimes it’s about getting a message out. Students said, as a result of this course, they realize they as individuals can make an impact.”