Class works to protect Wisconsin lakes in service learning project
The mention of Eurasian water-milfoil and zebra mussels in Dominique Brossard‘s strategic communication class last February had students rolling their eyes and swapping puzzled looks.
But after a semester of carefully tailoring multimedia campaigns to help a Wisconsin non-profit group get the word out about lake preservation, that initial bewilderment was replaced by an enthusiasm that could help keep state lakes free of invasive species.
Teams of students in Dominque Brossard’s strategic communication class prepared public awareness campaigns aimed at educating citizens about the threat of invasive species in Wisconsin’s lakes. This print ad is built around the slogan, "Wisconsin’s Been Good to You. Return the Favor."
"My family owns a cabin on a lake and when I learned more about these aquatic invasive species, I felt that this has to stop. This was a local project. It gave us more of a drive to make it great and have an impact," says Jared Davis, a senior from Wisconsin Rapids.
Brossard’s class, in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, was helped by a grant from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Morgridge Center for Public Service, which she wrote along with UW Extension professor Bret Shaw. Students tackled a service learning project aimed at building awareness for the state’s Clean Boats, Clean Waters mission.
The group informs Wisconsin boaters about aquatic invasive species and encourages them to inspect and wash their boats after each use so they don’t transport invasive species from lake to lake.
In the past, the class had worked with high-profile Midwestern companies, such as Schwinn. But those projects didn’t always resonate like the Clean Boats, Clean Waters campaign.
“A lot of the current messages are too informational for the normal person to care. We’re trying to move toward a more emotional stance to get people more involved. A lot of our ads are hitting on the emotional attachment people have to Wisconsin.”
Matthew Wisniewski, a junior from Sun Prairie
"It was kind of a good surprise to work on something so local. With Clean Boats, Clean Waters, you can see how you can make a difference," says Katie Mioni, a junior from Rockford, Ill.
Brossard divided her class into six project teams of about five students each and each devised a multimedia campaign to raise awareness of the problem and encourage behavior change. Last week, the teams made their final, 12-minute presentation to leaders of Clean Boats, Clean Waters and UW Extension.
"I’m just blown away. They all looked so professional," says Erin Henegar, volunteer coordinator for Clean Boats, Clean Waters, which is based at UW-Stevens Point. "I’m totally amazed. In every single one of them, there is something we can use. They did a ton of work for us, so we can pick and choose."
The campaigns were designed with a hypothetical $200,000 budget and involved everything from print and radio ads to advertisements on social networking sites such as Facebook and viral videos. Students also came up with promotional events such as fishing clinics for kids, fish cooking contests and giveaways of bucket and boat-cleaning sponges in the shape of the state.
They built the campaigns based on actual survey and focus group research conducted with groups of lake users.
Brossard says the ability to see their work put into practice provided some extra incentive for her students.
"It was very motivational to have a project that was so local, and the quality of their work and their creativity were great," says Brossard.
One of the groups, Stream Line Media, also drew some inspiration from this spring’s retirement of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. It underscored for the group how attached Wisconsinites are to their state and its traditions.
They built their campaign around the slogan, "Wisconsin’s Been Good to You. Return the Favor."
"A lot of the current messages are too informational for the normal person to care. We’re trying to move toward a more emotional stance to get people more involved," says Matthew Wisniewski, a junior from Sun Prairie. "A lot of our ads are hitting on the emotional attachment people have to Wisconsin."
Slogans for some of the other campaigns included "Preservation for the Future Generation," "Locals Only: Keep Invasive Species Out," "Are Aquatic Hitchhikers Ruining Your Experience at the Lake?" and a campaign using wild West wanted posters that ask "Are You Harboring This Criminal?"
Another group used graphic depictions of people swimming and water skiing through weed-clogged lakes and asked: "Is This What You Had in Mind?"
Brossard says she hopes to get students involved in more of these service learning projects that reach out to the state in the tradition of the Wisconsin Idea — that the boundaries of the campus are the boundaries of the state, and beyond.