Topics: Immersive Learning, College of Communication Information and Media

May 12, 2008

A project produced by Ball State students for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) has strengthened the partnership between the university and the state agency.

A seven-member student team presented its crisis protocol to the IDHS on April 28 at the Indiana State House, leaving officials ready for the next collaboration. The protocol establishes procedures for communication with the public and other state agencies during emergencies. IDHS will use the protocol for training public information personnel across the state.

"Obviously, there is a great deal of talent at Ball State," said Joe Wainscott, IDHS executive director, who presided over the presentation in the State House Rotunda. "In 2007, they produced a series of television public service announcements that were incredibly well done, and this crisis protocol is at the same level.

"We are under a directive by the governor to seek out partnerships at state universities and colleges. Tapping into the talent at Ball State will provide our agency access to an incredible resource. I can see a great many projects coming over the next few years."

Under the mentoring of Robert Pritchard, an associate professor of journalism who directs the university's public relations program, the student team put together the protocol after first studying public information issues and completing a Federal Emergency Management Agency course.

The second phase of the project focused on interviewing public information officers around the country to determine what is considered most successful in terms of crisis communication planning.

Ball State's previous project with IDHS resulted in eight 30-second public service announcements designed to educate viewers on the precautionary steps to take before an emergency occurs. The "Take Responsibility" messages continue to air on broadcast and cable television channels statewide. The spots will rotate throughout the year, depending on the focus of the message and how it correlates with the weather of a particular season.

Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora said the immersive learning experience provided by IDHS was another example of how the university is using its resources to meet the needs of the state while preparing students for the workforce.

"This truly is a win-win situation," Gora said. "Our students are required to drive the learning process, and in doing so, they gain valuable experience that teaches them much about themselves and prepares them for the world of collaboration and constant change that they will enter after graduation. In turn, communities, businesses and other organizations receive guidance and support as they prepare for the future."