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May 5, 2014

Three JMU Classes Devote the Semester to Helping a Local Non-Profit

By: Eric Cecchett ('14)

Collins Center Logo
Collins Center logo designed by JMU student Taylor Hudson, a 2014 graduate earning a double major in SMAD and WRTC, as part of a semester-long learning project that combined both disciplines.

In an academic culture dominated by standardized curriculum and scantron exams, many classes here at JMU offer a unique experience that can often produce amazing results.

Signing up for Sean McCarthy’s WRTC 484 class (Writing for Non-Profits), I had very little idea of what to expect.  Anticipating a few assigned books and perhaps a couple ten page essays, I showed up to the first class completely unprepared for the surprise that awaited me.

Since that day at the beginning of the semester, our class of about twenty students has been working in tandem with both Shaun Wright’s SMAD 303 and Shelly Hokanson’s SMAD 404 classes as professional consultants for the Collins Center: a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse in the area, as well as providing sexual assault response.

“I’m always looking for these types of opportunities,” says Professor Sean McCarthy.  “I think it’s very important for students to learn how to work collaboratively and how to deliver quality work in a short period of time.”

After being introduced to the Collins Center through SMAD assistant professor Shaun Wright, Sean and Shaun pitched the idea of a multi-class consultancy in which WRTC would handle content development while the SMAD classes would address web and video design.  The Collins Center agreed to the idea with an enthusiasm and openness and that would play a key role in the semester-long project.

“We are very lucky to be working with a non-profit like the Collins Center,” stated Sean McCarthy.  “Their approachability and willingness to try new things was really what allowed this all to happen.”

With only a few short months to complete this ambitious project, work had to be done quickly and decisively.  Our job included a thorough analysis of the Collins Center’s website and branding approach.  Through this, the class was able to assess in which areas we could be of the most help.

As time quickly passed, WRTC 484 was rapidly thrown into a world of high-stakes assignments and professional consultancy.  Boardroom presentations with the Collins Center loomed over our class deadlines with an unflinching demand.

But despite the initial intimidations of our new professional roles, the accommodating and enthusiastic nature of the Collins Center helped to extinguish any lingering fears.  They proved very supportive of everyone’s work and helped foster productivity and confidence among the class.

“Overall, this has been an incredible experience,” says senior Jillian Woolley.  “Working closely with the Collins Center over these past few months has given me invaluable professional exposure that I hope to be able to use after I graduate.”

Covering a variety of criteria ranging from the promotional videos to a complete redesign of the Collins Center logo and color scheme, every student in all three classes had something to contribute.

“The collaboration between students of different disciplines represents a real-world experience that encouraged them to share alternative perspectives,” says SMAD assistant professor Shaun Wright.  “The final projects created for the Collins Center are much stronger as a result and we hope can be used to further their mission.”

With summer rapidly approaching, both the WRTC and SMAD classes are working tirelessly to ensure their projects are ready for our finale: a grand unveiling of a semester’s worth of work at The Court Square Theatre in downtown Harrisonburg entitled “Engaging Voices.

Taking place on May 7th at 7:00 PM, Engaging Voices will promote the final products of this four month long project.  In addition to this, there will also be a poetry reading followed by a discussion from a panel of therapists and survivors who have had past experience with the Collins Center.

Anyone is welcome to attend what is sure to be a relaxed and lighthearted evening, showcasing a great example of three JMU classes coming together to make a difference.








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