Iowa State PR Capstone class participates in national competition


The Public Relations Campaigns class pictured standing new Iowa State’s Campanile.

Jack Mcclellan

Students working on their capstone project to raise awareness of misinformation in the Asian American Pacific Islander Community are participating in a national competition to stop targeted violence. In the class Public Relations Campaigns course, (PR 424) students have worked throughout the semester to create “The Pear Podcast” which emphasizes the effects that misinformation has on different cultures and communities.

The class partnered with Invent2Prevent to be entered into their challenge to create an initiative to prevent targeted violence. The class was given the broad goal of preventing targeted violence and ultimately honed in on the idea of creating an initiative to tackle misinformation within the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. 

One student participating in the project, a Senior majoring in public relations, Ruby Crow, explained what the class produced as part of their misinformation initiative.

“Our primary goal for this initiative was to raise awareness about misinformation and disinformation on the internet, which can lead to radicalization” Crow said. “With this initiative, we mainly focus on the AAPI community and how it relates to that and so we made  a website with a bunch of resources and a podcast with interviews discussing the topics of mis and disinformation and what individuals can do get help and help others.

When looking into the topic of targeted violence, these students saw that most flawed acts stem from faulty understandings. Thus they chose to address the problem at its roots by dissecting some of the misinformation that harms individuals from the AAPI community in Ames. Their primary tools for addressing this problem became the Pear Podcast, which gave students a more personal experience. Another student participating in the project, a Senior in public relations, Konner Jurasek explained why the podcast worked so well in informing students on misinformation.

In the podcasts we answer the deeper questions that individuals have, while helping people become aware about mis and disinformation and how it can lead to radicalization,” Jurasek said. “On top of the podcast, we have student testimonials so you’re hearing somebody who’s the same age as me or you, talk about issues that are relavent.

On top of the student testimonials, the class also included information from experts in misinformation from Iowa State’s campus. Experts included Michael Bugeja abd Novonty Lawrence, professors in Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication and Arnold Woods, director of Multicultural Student Success in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Before creating an initiative to prevent targeted violence, the class had to gather a lot of information on the real prevalence of misinformation and the impact it has on minority groups. The class conducted primary and secondary research to gain insight into the availability of information and things like the population sizes within Ames.

The class also conducted a post-podcast survey to measure their impact inside of these communities. One student who participated in the project, a Senior in public relations, Meg Grice, explained some of the results from the survey and the significance in their wider goal.

“I think one of the biggest things we identified in the survey was that a lot of people couldn’t identify targeted violence,” Grice said. “So I think we definitely saw a jump in the number of people who could identify targeted violence, had the proper resources to enact change knowing what targeted violence is.”

All this work was aimed at stopping targeted violence as part of a competition sponsored by Edventure Partners to grow initiatives to inspire positive change. The class has worked to record everything they did throughout the semester in order to submit it to a panel of judges who will evaluate the effectiveness of their initiative. If the class is selected to be a finalist, they could stand a chance to expand their initiative nationwide.

Teaching Professor at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communications, Erin Wilgenbusch instructed the course, helping to assure the students projects go smoothly.

“Well, this is a capstone class, in terms of teaching them new things, that’s not really the mission of this class. This class is more about helping them pull together. So over here, they learned about research, over here they learned about writing, over here they learned about video production,” Wilgenbusch said. “So this class is saying ‘okay remember you’ve learned all these things over the last three or four years. Let’s pull them all together.”

In previous years, students would split into small groups of roughly five individuals, who would work on creating a PR campaign for a local business. This year however, the entire class of 26 is united into one group with one goal, to raise awareness of the effects of misinformation in separate cultural communities. Wilgenbusch explained how the class performed in a more collaborative effort. 

“So, they’ve always had pretty narrow lanes to work in, this one is a big topic, targeted violence, That’s it,” Wilgenbusch said. “And so now you have to pick a piece of that because that’s That in itself is a very big concept. And so then you have to pick a piece, and you have to look at who are all the audiences affected. And then you go through the process of doing the primary research and the secondary research and doing you know, developing the strategies and then defining what are our measurable objectives and how are we going to go back and measure those outcomes.”

Tackling a project of this scale and breadth required all the students involved to take on their own roles to help bring the group closer to its goals. A surplus of tasks allowed the students to pick the jobs best suited to them, some student’s might have taken on the editing of the podcast or the assembling of a website while others focused on interviewing people who’ve dealt with targeted violence.

“Watching them all find their niche or say, all of them kind of look at each other Like, ‘I’ve never done this before’ and they’re like, ‘Well, somebody’s got to take it on’ and to watch them support one another, knowing that person hasn’t done this, but they’re brave enough to take it on,” Wilgenbusch said. “This is my 20th year teaching and I’ve had some tremendously great semesters. This group is just special that way they really blown me away.”