Communications students push for change through class projects

Not many students can say they were graded on making the world a better place. Those in Communications 3100, “Persuasion,” probably didn’t have the world in mind when creating their campaigns, but their local efforts unify into causes far greater than any individual project.

Students presented their semester-long work in an exhibit held Monday morning.

“Our slogan is ‘Make Spring Cleaning Have a Meaning,’” said Amanda Phellon, a fourth-semester undecided major who, like others in the class, had to pick a cause, design a campaign and persuade others to contribute in making a difference. “I was going through stuff to donate and I forgot I even had so many clothes, especially when people out there don’t.”

Phellon and Ashley Brannon’s project was simple: take old clothes that students don’t wear anymore and donate them to people who actually need them. Brannon, a fourth-semester communications major, pointed to a large cardboard box full of clothes and said they’ve already collected 50 pieces of clothing in just three days after putting donation boxes out in dining halls and residence halls across campus.

They even recruited a friend in digital media and design to make a logo for the campaign, and also created a short video to get things rolling.

Video by ash bran

The clothes, they said, will go to the Cornerstone Shelter in Vernon and the Holy Family Home and Shelter in Willimantic, both of which will distribute them to families in need.

With the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where thousands of primarily lower income communities have consumed lead-contaminated drinking water, Yael Holzmen Castellands, a sixth-semester political science and communications major, decided to start a fundraising campaign to help children who were hospitalized with related lead poisoning. Children are the most vulnerable to lead because of their small, developing bodies, she said.

“This is a huge minority and economic issue,” Castellands said. “It also costs a lot of money to get these people clean drinking water.”

She used Tilt.com to pool money she plans to donate to a charity in Flint, Michigan. She gave out water bottles during the class exhibition, and in an effort to garner support and awareness, posted Instagram photos of students posing in a cutout frame.

Yael Holzmen Castellands, a sixth-semester political science and communications major, poses in a cutout frame she made to raise awareness and support for donating to the people of Flint, Michigan. (Diler Haji/The Daily Campus)

Back in Connecticut, recent University of Connecticut budget cuts from the state impassioned Juliana Maclachlan, a sixth-semester vocal performance major, when she first read about them in the Daily Campus. Her group project titled “Huskies Against Budget Cuts” is a campaign to collect student grievances and increase pressure on legislators to stop them from cutting funds to the university.

“UConn is such a large draw in Connecticut that it seems counterintuitive to cut its budget,” Maclachlan said. “Everyone on campus can relate to this.”

She said the $31.2 million budget cuts would reduce financial aid, create small class sizes that can’t accomodate students who need to take certain courses and would change student healthcare.

“I depend on UConn healthcare,” Maclachlan said. 

Her group’s campaign has already collected 20 testimonials from students that will be sent to legislatures along with a petition. They used social media to get their message across and, like many others in the class, made a video.

A large white poster sits where Grant Arnold presented his group’s “UConn for Girls” project. Arnold is a sixth-semester political science and communications major.

Video by Max Boggini

He gives out pens and asks others to write down their fondest childhood memory. He explains the stages of a woman’s life and the importance of childhood shaping her future.

“If you’re abused, sexually assaulted or unable to receive a basic education as a child, that will have a huge mark,” Arnold said. “We wanted to work to end violence against children, especially women, by fundraising to help pay for them to travel to school safely or buy school supplies they would otherwise not be able to afford.”


Diler Haji is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email atdiler.haji@uconn.edu.