Tañega worked to populate Centred Outdoors’ social media sites per a social media calendar, created as a part of a complete public relations campaign developed by undergraduate students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. Tara Wyckoff, lecturer of advertising and public relations, provided guidance for her students in COMM 473.
“One of my sections took on Centred Outdoors as their ‘class client,’” said Wyckoff. “The students met with the client to understand the situation, identify the public relations opportunity and ultimately craft a public relations campaign for the client to implement.”
In addition to building a social media strategy, the students in COMM 473 pitched a media relations plan to local media and engaged partners of Centred Outdoors through internal messaging. Wyckoff added that the course was very hands-on.
“The staff at the Clearwater Conservancy was excellent to work with and treated the class like an agency. I thought that this provided a very realistic, professional experience for the students, allowing them to leverage the skills they acquired over the course of their studies.”
Students enrolled in RPTM 433W, taught by Birgitta Baker, associate professor of recreation, park, and tourism management in the College of Health and Human Development, also got hands-on experience in their field through the Centred Outdoors project. The class evaluated and provided the health benefits of exploring each Centred Outdoors location.
The health of the environment was also addressed by Centred Outdoors. When Robert Brooks, professor of geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, was first approached to participate in the project, he said he was intrigued by the premise of the unique project.
Brooks, along with a group of nine graduate students in GEOG 550, researched the environmental health and ecosystem services of each outdoor location. Brooks said his class worked creatively all semester to find ways to estimate and portray the level of ecosystem services using existing data.
“Ecosystem services are components of nature, directly enjoyed, consumed or used to yield human well-being,” explained Brooks. “We chose to explore the following set of services for Centred Outdoors: carbon storage, floodwater storage, water quality, recreation, bird biodiversity and fish biodiversity.”
By the end of the semester, the students produced informative posters — which were displayed at the Campus and Community Sustainability Expo — as well as a technical report. Recently, Brooks collaborated with Andrea Murrell, the strategic communications coordinator at Clearwater Conservancy, on a nationally-sponsored webinar.
“I applaud all the partners in this exciting and informative effort by the community,” Brooks said. “We were lucky to be part of this truly original approach to replacing indoor ‘screen’ time with healthy experiences outdoors."
Although the results of the Centred Outdoors project were impressive — with over 1,200 miles explored by residents during the 2017 summer — Ballreich believes the greatest success of the project was the partnerships formed as a result.
“Through this project, SCC has a well-established relationship with Clearwater Conservancy. We’re engaged with them,” Ballreich said. “There is a stronger relationship between the University and the community, as well.”
Each and every effort involved in the Centred Outdoors project orbited around a single motivation: showcasing and encountering the natural landscapes of the region where Penn State lives. Ballreich said that the best thing about the project was experiencing the beautiful, natural places in Centre County in the company of other people.
“I went to Black Moshannon State Park for the first time during this project,” Ballreich said. “I loved it so much that I ended up returning three additional times with my family throughout the summer.”