It has been three months since Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area and coastal regions of Texas, which, according to National Public Radio, dumped trillions of gallons of water on Texas over a four-day period. As Texans continue to recover from the historical hurricane, students in the COMM 3420: Communication and New Technology class, taught by Professor Mark Congdon Jr. at the UNT New College at Frisco, completed a semester-long service project during the Fall 2017 semester to help aid in the recovery efforts. Specifically, students organized a supply drive for Hurricane Harvey Relief by applying course concepts of digital communication to implement a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook.
The social media campaign proved to be a success, as students collected over 700 donations, which included baby food and diapers, cleaning supplies, and basic household items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, paper towels, and toilet paper, among other items. The donations were delivered prior to the Thanksgiving holiday to the Liberty Christian School in Argyle, who transported the supplies to various locations that serve the Houston area.
Professor Congdon explained that he uses a service-learning model to teach the course because he believes that educators in higher education "should provide the space in our classes for students to not only apply course content to gain real-world experience, but to mentor each other, truly developing student voice and agency by giving back to and working in our community."
Dr. Hope Garcia, Director of Student Services at UNT New College at Frisco, added that, "Although the New College at Frisco is comprised of many different academic departments, our unique setting allows for a seamless connection across various fields to pull together for one unified cause. Congdon's innovative teaching style and enthusiastic students who are eager to relate theory to practice in the form of social change is a breath of fresh air for meaningful and relevant higher education."
Students were thrilled about the success of their social media campaign and appreciated the opportunity to use their talents to give back to the community. Tyler Adams, a senior Communication Studies major, stated how important utilizing social media is with engaging the community. He explained how "Twitter is a great way to connect and engage with people across the globe. It was a very valuable communication tool in achieving relief for the victims of Hurricane Harvey." Professor Congdon added that he felt "honored to be teaching such amazing students who are deeply committed to using their education and skills to help out Texas communities. My students inspire me every day."
UNT has a history of working in the community through service projects, and the Hurricane Harvey supply drive organized by students in COMM 3420 reflects this commitment. Gabrielle Lane, a senior communication studies major, expressed that she feels "really blessed to attend a university where our professors structure the learning material around real life situations. It feels amazing to work towards my degree and help our fellow Texans simultaneously."
- Story and image from Mark Congdon and his COMM 3420 class