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More Than a PR Class: Clemson Prof Offers a Service-Learning Experience

As an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, Jordan Morehouse pulls double duty with her classes at Sullivan Foundation partner school Clemson University. She aims to provide students with theory and practical experience and a chance to do something meaningful in their community.

In the Fall 2021 semester, students in Morehouse’s public relations writing class worked directly with the Arc of Oconee County, a Seneca, S.C. nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life for intellectually and developmentally disabled citizens and their families.

“I want to teach students how to write and leave the class with a solid, finished portfolio they can use for job interviews, but I want students to take something out of this class beyond their grade,” Morehouse said. “Clemson is a land-grant university, so I want to give back to the community by helping a nonprofit in a real way.”

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Morehouse created the class to mirror the experience of working for a professional public relations firm serving the Arc of Oconee County. During the semester, students completed a newsletter, two news releases, a pitch letter, a communication audit, a public relations plan, a crisis communication plan, social media posts, a social media plan, website content and a fact sheet.

“They get real-world experience in the safety of the class, where I can edit their work before they present it to the organization,” Morehouse said.

Laura Price, executive director of the Arc of Oconee County, said the organization is grateful for the students’ work. The Arc is run by two staff members and five volunteers, with oversight from a nine-member board of directors, so the ready-made content helps with their workload. The organization saved all the projects they weren’t able to use immediately for future use.

While Morehouse’s class has worked with the Arc of Oconee County since Fall 2020, they’ve also worked with other nonprofits including AID Upstate, which is local to South Carolina. Additionally, some students last semester chose to work with L-CMD Research Foundation, a Texas-based organization advancing research related to LMNA-related congenital muscular dystrophy.

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Morehouse plans to continue working with the Arc of Oconee County for as long as the nonprofit would like to partner with her. But she also wants to expand the service-learning modeled class to work with more than two nonprofits each semester.

Her students are glad for the opportunity to create work for their portfolio and to help their community. Kylie Harrison has set her career sights on political public relations and consultancy, a path confirmed by her participation in Morehouse’s class. She said she has enjoyed learning about different aspects of public relations and creating pieces that benefit an organization as well as her own portfolio.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to give back to the community,” Harrison said. “It is really special working with the Arc. It has been a unique experience for me to grow personally and professionally.”

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Clemson University website.