LSC classes collaborate with the City of Monona through UW’s UniverCity Year Program

Story by Sarah Krier. Sarah is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2016-17 Lenore Landry Scholar

The 2016-2017 academic year marked the first year of the University of Wisconsin’s UniverCity Year program, where twenty-three classes across campus teamed up with the City of Monona to work on projects aimed at helping the city address key programs. The Department of Life Sciences Communication continued our tradition of engaging with Wisconsin communities by having two classes team up with UniverCity to help the City of Monona tackle projects while providing students an opportunity to immerse themselves in real-world professional experiences. One of LSC’s capstone classes developed a city-wide leaf management campaign, while students in LSC’s Information Radio class produced public service announcements for the city.

Students in LSC 515 presented their work to classmates and community partners on Thursday, May 4, 2017.

Students in LSC 515: Public Information Campaigns and Programs, taught by assistant professor Neil Stenhouse, spent the spring semester collaborating with the City of Monona to develop a sustainable leaf disposal program. Students applied their strategic communication knowledge to create a program aimed at encouraging Monona residents to make sustainable changes in their leaf management behavior.

Seven groups of students developed campaigns and presented their work to course partners, including representatives from the City of Monona. Campaign solutions ranged from social media outreach to signage and print campaigns and public service announcements.

Nina Catterall, a member of the Monona Sustainability Committee, attended the final presentations and provided feedback to the students. “For us, it is really exciting to have an outside eye. To have another ear to think and hear different things than we do to make things better for the community as a whole,” notes Catterall.

Also this semester, students in LSC 360: Information Radio with professor emeritus and senior lecturer Larry Meiller produced public service announcements to be used by WVMO, 98.7FM, the Voice of Monona radio station.  Originally, the class had only planned on creating 17 PSA’s, however, the project provided a great opportunity for students to hone their radio skills, and in the end, they produced over 30 spots to be used by WVMO over the next three years.  The spots ranged in length and covered various topics pertinent to Monona such as bike safety, the Monona Senior Center, and the Monona Library. A sample of the PSA’s can be heard on UniverCity Alliance website.

“The PSA’s produced by students in Mr. Meiller’s class are invaluable to our radio station and to the city of Monona. Partnering with students in the UW Life Sciences Communication Department who are trained in broadcast script writing and production enables us to get a product (and lots of them) that we would have never been able to produce otherwise,” noted Will Nimmow, the Director of Community Media for the City of Monona.

Both projects are examples of the Wisconsin Idea in practice, and LSC chair Dominique Brossard notes it is a great opportunity for the students. “It means a lot to the students when they are able to work with an actual client and build their professional experience so they can hit the ground running upon graduation.  Moreover, they are making a difference in Wisconsin communities. It’s a win-win.”

The projects are useful to the City of Monona as well.  The PSA’s created by students in LSC 360 are already on the air at WVMO and according to Brad Bruun of the Monona Public Works Department, they plan to incorporate information from the leaf disposal campaigns into this year’s projects.