HPS and CLASS collaborate on hurricane relief supply drive at UNT New College at Frisco

Students in COMM 3420 getting ready to ship the donations from their social media supply drive to victims of Hurricane Harvey just in time for Thanksgiving (pictured from left to right: Linda Robledo, Nicholas Ortega, Gabrielle Lane, Mark Congdon Jr., Michael Sotny, Graciela Guzman, Tiffani Grosser, & Andrea Martinez).

Students in COMM 3420 collecting and dispersing boxes for their Hurricane Harvey Relief Supply Drive at UNT New College at Frisco (pictured from left to right: Victoria (Tori) Plumbo, Jason Foley, Derrick Maynard, and Ty Janosko).

Students in COMM 3420 organizing and packing up donations to be shipped to the Liberty Christian School in Argyle. 

Students in COMM 3420 collected over 700 donations for the Hurricane Harvey Relief supply drive through their semester-long social media campaign.

 

It has been months since Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area and coastal regions of Texas, which, according to National Public Radio, dumped trillions of gallons of water on Texas over a four-day period.

“I’m from the Houston area, and when I saw the magnitude of the storm’s damage, I knew we had to do something to help our friends and family down there.” said Scott Belshaw, Ph.D., UNT Cyber Forensics Lab director and associate professor of criminal justice in the College of Health and Public Service.

Belshaw worked with other leaders at UNT New College at Frisco to launch a supply drive benefiting the families affected by the hurricane. As Texans continued to recover, the faculty, staff and students at New College came together to help aid in the recovery efforts throughout the semester.

As part of the COMM 3420: Communication and New Technology class, taught by Mark Congdon, Jr., a lecturer in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, students organized a supply drive for Hurricane Harvey Relief by applying course concepts of digital communication to implement a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

The social media campaign proved to be a success, as students collected over 700 donations, which included baby food and diapers, cleaning supplies, and basic household items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, paper towels, and toilet paper, among other items. The donations were stored in the UNT Cyber Forensics Lab and then delivered to Liberty Christian School in Argyle prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Belshaw’s wife, Amanda Belshaw, will transport the supplies from the school to the Houston area this month.

Congdon explained that he uses a service-learning model to teach the course because he believes that educators in higher education “should provide the space in our classes for students to not only apply course content to gain real-world experience, but to mentor each other, truly developing students’ voice and agency by giving back to and working in our community.”

Hope Garcia, Ph.D., director of student services at UNT New College, added that, “Although the New College at Frisco is comprised of many different academic departments, our unique setting allows for a seamless connection across various fields to pull together for one unified cause. Congdon’s innovative teaching style and enthusiastic students who are eager to relate theory to practice in the form of social change is a breath of fresh air for meaningful and relevant higher education.”

Students were thrilled about the success of their social media campaign and appreciated the opportunity to use their talents to give back to the community. Tyler Adams, a senior Communication Studies major, stated how important utilizing social media is with engaging the community. He explained how “Twitter is a great way to connect and engage with people across the globe. It was a very valuable communication tool in achieving relief for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.”

Congdon added that he felt “honored to be teaching such amazing students who are deeply committed to using their education and skills to help out Texas communities. My students inspire me everyday.”

UNT has a history of working in the community through service projects, and the Hurricane Harvey supply drive organized by students in COMM 3420 reflects this commitment. Gabrielle Lane, a senior communication studies major, expressed that she feels “really blessed to attend a university where our professors structure the learning material around real life situations. It feels amazing to work towards my degree and help our fellow Texans simultaneously.”