Commons Campaign Portfolio
COMM 250 Spring 2017
Aaron Furrow, Erin McCready, Taylor Kimbrough
I. Project Proposal
The talk of mental health has been on the rise for the last 10 years. From school shootings to suicide, the awareness of how serious mental health is could not be any more relevant to our world. Another side of mental health that is being noticed is the impact of stress of today, especially with college students. On the national scale, 1 in 6 college students have been diagnosed/treated for anxiety, 21.9% saying that is affected their academics. The demands of technology, school, and social lives are creating stressful years for young adults.
Overhearing from friends and students in classes, it seems that there is a large group that feels affected by stress to a point where they want help. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers many resources to de-stress or find help, including the Rec Center and the CAPS program (Counseling and Psychological Services), but the majority of students are not satisfied with the Health Center and CAPS. One way that CAPS reaches out to students is that they allow four free visits to counseling services, but many feel that four visits is not going to fix the problem because they want ideas to implement into their daily lives instead of just “fixing the problem”. The view that needs to be changed is that mental health isn’t just a “problem”. Mental health is just like our physical health, and we need to take care of it everyday. The university is not giving the advice that the students want, but we can help fix the issue by finding a way to connect CAPS and the students again.
University of Nebraska- Lincoln students will be our audience for our campaign. We realize that all college students and even other ages could be benefited by our idea, but we found a problem in the CAPS and Health Center’s system that we feel we could help fix.
Because mental health is such a rising issue, but historically has had a negative stigma attached to it, people are not seeking the help when needed. At the university, many resources are available to students, however; either they go unused or student’s are leaving the counseling services unsatisfied. Therefore, our campaign is to shed light on the ineffective resources at UNL and to promote a positive, normalization of mental health.
There are multiple constraints with our idea. First of all, we have to deal with the majority negative view and connotation of mental health. Many people think of mental health as the “crazy people” or the “suicidal people”, rather than your normal classmate sitting right next to you. This has to do with the idea of collective memory of mental health in the last 10 years. The recent events of mass shootings and suicides have been making mental issues seem un-normal and like a “huge catastrophe”. This isn’t an easy idea to change to a positive one. Lastly, the power levels will be at play in our project. It will already be a large task to try to change a large, university organization, as well as dealing with an organization that has more power than three college students.
However, we believe in the affordances that this project could grant us. Mental health is a rising concern in our society, and students are becoming more and more interested in it every year. We found a place that isn’t effectively using it’s power, and we believe our communication skills and ideas could help.
- Fix CAPS
- Change the stigma behind CAPS
- Create awareness
- Shed light on the ineffective resources at UNL
- Promote a positive, normalization of mental health.
Our project is creative because it will be done by students for students, not done by the administration, but helping the administration. Not many students go up to organizations to tell them what they think is wrong and could be fixed!
Our project is organized in a way that allows us to get input from both the student body, and CAPS, giving us a wider range of knowledge and perspectives on the project.
The stylistic elements we will be drawing from will be continuously refined as the campaign progresses. The main goal will be to help shift the negative connotations of mental health to something more positive and real. Due to the importance of mental health, we will keep our tone serious and informational to draw awareness, but hope to do in a way more appealing to our classmates than what is currently done.
Our group has a genuine desire to help those who feel they need and want to use resources provided by UNL. We hope our Commons Campaign has a lasting, memorable effect in the sense that students feel satisfied with their resources and continue to use them. We also see the line of communication we hope to create as a beneficial resource to both the CAPS program and students that can be continued on even after this class.
The medium of delivery will be determined once we consult with CAPS, but right now we are thinking through the CAPS social media and website.
II. Explanation Of Project
For our Commons Campaign we teamed up with the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office on campus to use our skills as Communication Studies majors to revamp their website. Our team knew from the beginning we wanted to focus on mental health and mental health awareness. We knew we wanted to work with the CAPS program and while we had many ideas, we were unsure what would be the most beneficial way we could use our knowledge. We began with a survey of our peers to see what current UNL students knew about the CAPS program. Survey questions included if students knew about CAPS and the services they provided, if students had used CAPS resources in the past, if students liked/disliked the services, and what other resources students wish were offered to UNL students. (Complete questions and the results of the survey can be found on the power-point). Our survey was created on SurveyPlanet on March 6th and distributed via social media, email, and word of mouth from March 6th-30th. During that time, we scheduled a meeting with Cynthia Von Seggern Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and Group and Outreach Coordinator and Jamie Porter from the Health Promotion and Outreach office. We met with them on March 31st to gain a more in-depth understanding of the CAPS office, present our survey and results, and discuss ideas on how we could help CAPS promote mental health awareness.
During our meeting, we brainstormed multiple ideas and finally decided our skills could best be used to overhaul the CAPS page on the UNL website This decision was based on the fact that most of the services students indicated wanting on our survey were already available, students were just not aware of them. Cindy and Jamie introduced us to Aimee Grindstaff the Communications and Marketing Senior Analyst for CAPS. We decided it would be best to schedule a sit down meeting with Amiee and discuss the specifics on how we could help her with the website overhaul. We met briefly on April 4, 2017 to discuss what our goals would be while evaluating the website. Our goals broadly consisted of finding faults with the organization of pages, narrowing down resources needed to be displayed on the homepage, finding information that was outdated/not useful, and deciding the most beneficial resources for students.
After that meeting our group was really inspired and excited with the direction our project was taking. We took a week to do our own tedious individual evaluations of the CAPS website and took copious notes on changes we wanted to make. Our suggestions ranged from small changes, like adding subtitles, small graphics, adding bulleted points in paragraphs, etc., to major changes, like our suggestion to reroute the CAPS Services navigation to the CAPS Services page rather than the Support Groups, Therapy Groups, and Workshop page (this can be seen on the power point). We then got together in the Love Library on April 10th to discuss all of the faults we had found on the CAPS website and create rough draft power point that let us get all our ideas in one place. Over the next week we worked hard to perfect our power point making the information clear and concise for our final meeting with Amiee.
Our final meeting with Amiee was held on April 18th after class. We were so excited to present her with the changes and suggestions that we had to revamp the website. We went slide by slide and explained to her what changes we thought needed to be made and then justified why we thought those changes would be beneficial to the UNL student population and for the CAPS office using multiple concepts taken directly from this class. The four of us had an open conversation about how the website should be used and how our suggestions represented the needs of the UNL students. We provided Aimee a copy of our presentation as well as extended an open invitation to contact any of us throughout the website revamp process.
III. Evidence of Intervention
When our project began we weren’t exactly sure what direction we were going to go. We wanted to make sure that our project would be influential and stick around longer than this semester. During the proposal stage, our goals were to change the stigma of mental health and increase awareness. We searched what was already circulating UNL and found a lot of awareness campaigns such as posters talking about mental health or a Facebook group promoting a pledge to make a change of mental health beliefs. These campaign were great, but we wanted to go further. We wanted to do something different and to go straight to the source of most of these campaigns; the CAPs Center. We decided it would be an innovative approach reaching out to CAPS asking them how we (a group of student wanting and willing to help them improve) could help.
In our meeting with Cindy we expressed our concern with the growing problem with mental health and the stigma around it. This growing concern created an exigence for our project. We strategically arranged our meeting after Spring Break so we would have time to distribute our survey to our peers and still have time to analyze and familiarize ourselves with the results. This gave us a broad idea of the concerns, suggestions, and opinions of UNL students about CAPS going into the meeting.
Before our meeting we thought that the CAPs center had very limited resources. As our meeting progressed, we learned a lot about the goals and resources the CAPS program has for students. This gave us a well rounded, in-depth picture of what CAPS is and revealed that CAPS actually has a lot of resources that just weren’t being used to their full potential. We brainstormed with Cindy and Jamie multiple ways we could use the skills we’ve learned in our COMM classes that would benefit CAPS and the UNL student population. We eventually came up with the idea that we would partner to reconstruct their website (meaning that our ideas and project would be shown on a very important website for multiple years to come)!
Once we had the chance to meet with Amiee, we learned that the kairos for our project could not have been more perfect. Amiee told us that she had planned to do total overhaul for the CAPS website this summer and she was thrilled we wanted to help her take on such a huge project. Our main focuses for the website were the homepage and the CAPS Services tab, but also did page by page suggestions for each area of the website. We decided these were the two main tabs that needed to be addressed based on concepts we’ve learned in this class. We took into consideration our lessons on distractions and hyperlinks so we made it our goal to get the most important information at the tops of pages. We also suggested a lot of visual effects that would make more information more organized, concise, and cohesive with the rest of the UNL websites.
We decided to present our suggestions to Amiee using a power point with screenshots of the current site, our suggestions, and examples from other UNL web pages with hyperlinks. We decided this was the best way to present our information because it provided us a platform that was environmentally friendly and it was easy for us both to present and for her to refer back to this summer when she is renovating the website. By using screenshots and links to examples, we think it will be easy for her to translate and replicate the changes to the new site but have offered her any assistance we can provide throughout the website redesign. We tried to keep the overall style of our presentation very informational and professional and added personalized touches such as the UNL branded background.
The goal of our campaign from the very beginning was to find a way to bridge the gap between the services CAPS provides and the services students want. Through our survey of our peers, our meeting with CAPS, and all of our extensive brainstorming, we found that the gap was the website. The website was the ineffective aspect of the UNL CAPs Center so we made the leap and suggested ways to fix it! One of the biggest constraints we had with our project was not knowing how Amiee would take our suggestions. We took this project very seriously and were brutally honest at times about changes that we thought needed to be made. We also had the major constraint of not knowing the ends and outs of UNL’s website editing capabilities, which is why we decided to reference parts of other UNL pages that had aspects that we liked about them. Finally, we have the constraint of not being able to make the changes ourselves. While Amie was very open to all our ideas and suggestions, in the end she and her team will be the ones who make the calls on what changes we suggested get implemented and what do not. However, we believe the affordance of our project outweighs our constraints. We believe our project has the power to make a difference because we found a place that isn’t effectively using it’s power, and we used our communication skills and ideas to help change that.
Taylor- I really enjoyed our project. It took some time to come together but in the end I think we were able to do something that will truly make a lasting impact for CAPS, for students, and for the University as a whole. In my opinion, if our changes to the website make it easier for one person to get the help they need regarding their mental health we succeeded in our campaign. One of my favorite parts of our project was getting to meet Cindy, Jamie, and Amiee and learning more about the CAPS program. As a full-time employee as well as a student, it’s nice to know a lot of the information CAPS provides for identifying trouble students, etc. I also thought everyone’s willingness to work with us and take our suggestions was really cool. I think our whole group was a little nervous about how critically we judged the current website when we were finding faults and making suggestions, but Amiee was incredibly open to our ideas and excited to have student’s perspective. As far as things I would’ve done differently, looking back I wish we would’ve thought of this idea from the start. I think we did such an awesome job and it fit the project so well I think it would’ve been fun to do the entire Health Center’s website. I also wish that we could see the final results of what suggestions/changes get implemented into the new website, but look forward to looking for those next Fall!
Erin- Overall, I am very satisfied with our project. This was a cool opportunity to actually make a change in our community and I believe we did a great job in the end. It helped a lot to learn about the Rhetorical Canons before heading into the project, because it helped make the goals of the project more realistic and stronger. I think we knew that we wanted the result of our project to be memorable, but also realistic. Finding the faults in the CAPs website wouldn’t have been possible without my group’s persistence and motivation to find the best possible mean in improving mental health around UNL. I look forward to seeing what Aimee chooses to implement on to the new website design!
Aaron- I think me and all my group members would agree that this project ended up being a success. When we first started brainstorming ideas, mental health seemed to be something we were all interested in. In the end we decided to help CAPS edit and change their website. This was no easy task, because the CAPS website is not the easiest website to maneuver. I’m so happy that we went with the route that we did. This project will not dissipate, because the website will be up for years and years after our involvement. Our campaign may not look as dynamic right now, but the changes we made to the website will aid students with mental health issues in the years to come. At first I was very skeptical as to how this project would pertain to the class, but in the end our vision really coincided with a lot of the course materials. All in all as a group put a lot of time and effort into revamping the CAPS website, and I look forward to seeing the changes we made put into action as CAPS rebuilds the website this summer.
To view our power point click the link below!