One public relations class in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication has enriched the state by giving back through a project with UGA’s Archway Partnership. From January to March, students planned and implemented a public relations campaign to inform Grady County residents about the upcoming development of Tired Creek Lake.
Expected to be completed within five years, the recreational lake will fulfill the long-term fishing needs of the county. Visitors will be able to boat, fish, hike, enjoy water sports and engage in other lakeside recreational activities.
Through the campaign, the 25 senior public relations students educated the community on the future of Tired Creek Lake and helped dispel misconceptions that years of proposals, studies and development plans have created. The partnership has provided students the benefit of professional experience while fulfilling UGA’s public service mission.
“Working with the Archway Partnership has created a unique opportunity to serve a Georgia community with the skills we have gained during our academic career at UGA,” said team leader Carly Nash, a senior from Knoxville, Tenn., majoring in public relations.
Associate professor Kaye Sweetser, who has taught this course since 2008, said that by this point in their academic careers, students know everything they need to know to execute a full public relations campaign.
“I look for clients that will provide real-world implementation,” Sweetser said. “This particular client was a great opportunity because they also provided a wonderful service component. I love that as the students bring together all of the skills and strategies they have learned in the public relations curriculum, they are giving back to the state of Georgia with this type of service.”
Since January, the class has worked with the Grady Archway Partnership’s Executive Committee, Grady County Commission and Grady County attorney Kevin Cauley to perform research and execute and evaluate the campaign. The project arose from a locally identified need discussed in a community listening session held in October.
“The students have done a great job of interacting with a large cross-section of the community over a short period of time through multiple sources and mediums,” said Cauley. “The effectiveness of the group was much greater than I expected.”
An allocated budget from Archway has facilitated communication between the class and Grady County residents. The budget enabled class representatives to meet and speak with local leaders, clubs and organizations about the project.
On March 6, the class hosted a “Tired Creek Lake Fish Fry” and media day to educate more than 340 residents and media about the project and future of Tired Creek Lake. Several experts, including Todd Rassmussen, professor of hydrology and water resources at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, were on hand to answer questions from citizens. Rassmussen has been involved for several years in assessing the water quality impacts of the proposed lake in Grady County.
“Improving economic opportunities is very important in rural areas of the state where the loss of traditional industries has caused severe disruptions to local communities,” said Rassmussen. “The students have mobilized an array of resources to gather the community together to identify how they can collaborate on developing new infrastructure and improve the county’s quality of life.”
The event informed residents about the purpose, uses and timeline of the lake’s construction. The capstone presentation for the class and community will be held April 26 at Grady College.