Emmanuel College is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through the Cummings Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program.
A new semester and a long-awaited return to campus brought new responsibilities and realities to Emmanuel students, faculty and staff—and along with those, a new, student-driven public health campaign.
The campaign’s overarching message is simple: “We, the Emmanuel community, have a shared responsibility in promoting a campus-wide culture of wellness and to keeping ourselves, our campus and the city of Boston safe.”
Under the direction of Associate Professor of Communication & Media Studies Dr. Mark Flynn, nearly 20 students in the Fall 2020 “Health Communications” course played an integral role in developing the College’s awareness campaign for the Spring 2021 semester. The resulting initiative, “Be in Boston, Stay in Boston” launched on January 26th with an interactive microsite, Instagram channel and on-campus signage and graphics. The site includes a growing crowdsourced map of neighborhood hotspots for students to enjoy in a COVID-safe way, events, challenges, anecdotes and advice from Emmanuel students, and resources related to wellness on campus and off.
The class was tasked with developing a campaign for students, by students with the main objective of keeping health and safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds as the College returns to living and learning on campus after closing in March 2020. The campaign is meant to complement information offered by the College through Emmanuel Forward with a focus on how students—as well as administration, faculty and staff—can do their part to ensure the health and safety of the greater Emmanuel community, while also returning to an engaging college experience.
Dr. Flynn, who had taught Health Communications multiple times before last semester, amended the syllabus after having a “lightbulb” moment over the summer that would refocus student’s learning efforts toward positive on-campus outcomes for all Emmanuel stakeholders.
“The existing structure of the Health Communications course worked well with designing a student-driven campaign,” said Dr. Flynn. “In the past, we’ve had students create messaging campaigns for local hospitals or organizations such as Dana-Farber and then at the end of each semester, they’d pitch the content they’ve created to the business for consideration in an actual campaign.”
Using that model, the class split into five smaller teams and each group began developing content while concurrently learning about the process of designing a health campaign. The groups evaluated the current climate in Boston and similar efforts by other higher education institutions, determined their main audience, developed goals and objectives with precise planning before every group started to create messaging for the campaign. All five groups worked independently, but with the same end goal in mind of creating a return-to-campus awareness campaign that they believe will resonate with their peers.
“In one of our first meetings, our team discussed possible themes and slogans for the campaign when our group member, Liz Chiarella ’23, thought of the ‘Be in Boston, Stay in Boston’ slogan,” said Emily Geary ’21. “We immediately knew that was the one. We started discussing how we could create a campaign around that slogan, aiming to emphasize the benefits of not only staying on campus, but living in one of the greatest college cities in America while also encouraging students to follow the guidelines necessary to keep our campus open.”
“It was incredible to watch the groups work together for the greater good of the Emmanuel community,” said Dr. Flynn. “I’m extremely impressed by what they accomplished during a virtual semester. Not only were they all responsive and adaptable throughout the fall, they were committed to Emmanuel’s mission while designing this campaign.”
Throughout the fall semester, as members of the class continued to develop their campaign concepts, they pitched ideas to members of the College’s Office of Marketing Communications, who helped facilitate the campaign launch along with a steering committee of students and staff members representing departments and organizations across campus. A number of students from Dr. Flynn’s class will continue to carry out the campaign this spring serving as interns with the Office of Marketing Communications as well.
As life returns to 400 The Fenway and classes get underway, the hope is for the “Be In Boston, Stay In Boston” campaign to serve as a rallying cry amongst the community. After all, as members of Dr. Flynn’s Health Communications class believe, it will take a community effort to ensure a healthy, safe and successful semester on campus.
“It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a global pandemic that has altered life so drastically for all of us,” said Geary. “[Our work on this campaign] gave us the chance to hopefully make a positive difference in the health and well-being of our campus, and that is a pretty empowering feeling.
“My biggest piece of advice to fellow Emmanuel community members would be to approach the semester with a community mindset,” said Geary. “Our individual actions will impact not only one another here on campus, but the Greater Boston community. I think the most important piece of maintaining community safety and well-being will be finding ways to connect with one another that are not dangerous or potentially harmful to our community, while acknowledging the need to support and protect one another in these challenging, unprecedented times.”
Dr. Flynn echoed this sentiment saying, “Emmanuel has a tightknit community. We are passionate about social issues and mission driven so as you return to campus, keep in mind why you chose Emmanuel. Remember what you love about it and by holding onto those ideals, you’ll naturally help everyone think outside of themselves and for the greater good of our community.”