Six Strategies for Marketing Community Engagement on Campus

July 29, 2015

Gina Montilino and Paige Wheeler of the Center for Experiential Education at Normandale Community College share six ways they’re expanding the circle of community engagement:

1. The Coffee Cart: It’s more than a tray on wheels. Before the semester begins, Center staffers load up their cart with coffee, pastries, and a “menu” of service-learning options, including possible formats, community partners, and available support services. They roll down the halls, visiting faculty during office hours to discuss ways faculty might engage their students in community-based learning. Paige says the coffee cart supports existing faculty relationships, builds new ones, and increases visibility of the services offered through the Center. It’s a great example of meeting people where they are.

2. Consistent Branding: Center staff recently sat down with the college’s marketing office to align their branding with the college’s look. The Center now uses the same color scheme, fonts, and poster and PowerPoint layout templates as other programs and departments on campus. Gina explains that this consistent branding helps their materials look professional, and also conveys the message that experiential learning is core to the educational experience, not somehow separate or different.

Branding on Website

3. Memes: The internet is full of them. Why not use them to promote community-engaged learning? The Normandale team created funny images riffing on memes like “I mustache you a question” to urge faculty to consider service-learning in their courses. They use the memes in email blasts as well as posters, including large “plotter” sized posters on the windows in front of the office. They found themselves getting lots of attention with the help of these visual jokes.

Meme

4. Increased Student Voice: It probably won’t surprise anyone to hear that students listen to fellow students. So, Center staff have turned up the volume on student voice in their marketing materials. From including students’ faces and quotes on presentation slides to adding video interviews with testimonials on the website, current students get more information about what their peers love about service-learning. Staff also keep a database of student testimonials specific to certain classes and tailor materials accordingly, increasing the relevance to new participants. Gina notices that while staffers emphasize the practical benefits of community-based learning, such as professional development, students often emphasize the joy and personal relationships they developed through their experience. That’s a message that isn’t as convincing coming from a staffer.

Student Quotes

5. Student Organization Visits: While the Center for Experiential Learning mostly supports curricular community engagement, they also make an effort to build relationships with student organizations. Many student groups are grateful for the Center’s relationships with community groups: “It was surprising how many of them had no idea what we have available,” says Gina. The other win: students develop a relationship with the Center for Experiential Ed staff, helping them more fully engage with its resources when they end up in curricular engagement courses.

6. Classroom Presentations: Let’s be honest – visiting every service-learning class won’t help you be more efficient. Nonetheless, Gina highly recommends finding the time. A creative strategy: recruiting past students who successfully served at a site to speak to the class. It supports leadership development, saves time for community organization staff, and allows current students a first-hand glimpse into the engaged learning experience.

How do you market community-engaged learning on your campus? Let us know in the comments.