Students Team Up with the Center for History
As part of their Introduction to public relations course at Bethel College, students partnered with the Center for History to promote a new, permanent exhibit that will preserve a part of local and national history. “Polished in Public, Fierce of the Field: the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL),” opened at the Center for History Museum on May 31.
In a semester-long project, students applied concepts learned in the classroom to a real-life situation, conducting a public relations audit for the exhibit. After first hearing Marilyn Thompson, director of marketing for the Center for History Museum, discuss her marketing needs, students got to work.
Their objective was twofold: encourage multiple audiences to attend the Sliver Hawks’ game on May 16, which honored the South Bend Blue Sox (part of the exhibit) and spark interest in the official opening.
The Center for History is the national archive for the AAGPBL, which includes artifacts from all 14 teams that participated in the league from 1943-1954. The Blue Sox were one of the four original teams in the World War II-Era sport, immortalized by the 1992 film, “A League of Their Own.”
For the project, students divided into groups by audience, targeting women’s groups, little league teams/parks and recreation, schools (elementary-senior high), the South Bend Silver Hawks, college baseball teams and downtown South Bend merchants.
In a final audit presented to Thompson, the class offered strategies, tactics and budgets to achieve specific objectives, bringing concepts learned in the classroom to life. They also provided a letter that could be used for each audience, with organization-specific information generated for each target group. Additionally, the students provided a phone script, talking points for a presentation, social media strategies, a news release and a school contact list.
Thompson, who says she has had a wonderful experience working with area college students in the past, was impressed with the results.
“They came up with a strategy, did research and put together scripts. They really did their work thoroughly,” Thompson says. “I was impressed that they took this project very seriously, because it’s something that is so important to the museum.”
One group even provided a baseball signed by Justin Masterson, a former Bethel player who is currently pitching in the major leagues for the Cleveland Indians, to be included in a raffle to generate interest in the exhibit.
Not only was the class able to extend the resources of the Center for History, but students gained valuable real-world experience in the process.
“Application is a higher measure of learning than memorization,” says Bethel Associate Professor of Communication Elizabeth McLaughlin, Ph.D., whose public relations classes have been working with area nonprofit organizations for 10 years. “Real experience applied to a case is a good way to learn.”
Additionally, such work adds to students’ portfolios.
Katherine Cooper, a student in the class, highly valued the experience. “It allowed me to really get a taste of PR in a real-life situation and develop something to include in my portfolio, while making a difference in the community,” she says.
Though McLaughlin’s classes have worked with a variety of organizations over the years, the projects are always driven by the context of helping others.
“It’s great to get students connected to the community to help forward a cause,” McLaughlin says.
Thompson says the Center for History implemented the talking points and ideas from the class to market both the Blue Sox Night at Four Winds Field and the exhibit opening.
“They had innovative ideas that I could definitely use. I felt that their project was very worthwhile,” she says.
The Center for History Museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from noon-5 p.m. To learn more, visit CenterforHistory.org.