McCollough Research on Economic Impact of Service Learning Published

Dr. Chris McCollough, Associate Professor of Communication, has published a new piece in the Journal of Public Relations Education presenting research on the potential impact of students' service learning work on economic development programs in Marion County, GA, as well as the work's influence on their professional prospects.

The study reviews the students' project work and the program's development, execution, and evaluation over three semesters in two full public relations courses and a senior internship between the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic year. It also includes an analysis of economic indicators, the perspective of the county's Chamber of Commerce, and the impact on students directly involved with the project since its completion in December of 2015.

The findings suggest that the work of the students played a role in helping establish the foundation for grant writing and marketing materials that supported the promotion of Marion County's emerging travel and tourism economy, and CSU's own Pasaquan. Key finds are a consistent growth in local tax revenue, business licenses, and residential building permits balanced against a firm decline in unemployment in the region. The interviews also uncovered the long-term successes of students 2-3 years removed from the classroom who are now industry professionals, including a personally vested student from Marion county who is not a Chamber of Commerce President in a neighboring county in Georgia.

McCollough said of the project, "It began with a generous invitation to collaborate with colleagues from Professor Mike McFalls in the Art Department, and like most good service learning projects, grew organically into a larger project that opened the door for students to network with industry professionals in the public and private sector. The findings tell me our students were working to meet the needs of a community partner, and realized the opportunities it created for them."

The project also represents an emerging area of study in teaching and learning in the public relations discipline. While an established area of study in business sub-disciplines, public relations literature is just starting to explore the relationship between high-impact practices and economic development, moving beyond benefits to institutions, faculty, and students.

McCollough said about the new area of study, "In the process of reviewing the data, I realized my field hadn't looked at this just yet. Once my piece had been in review, I began to see talented colleagues in a few underserved parts of the country who identified the same potential for students and communities that I did. It's exciting to see the growing value in public relations scholarship for demonstrating the potential return on investment for community partners beyond the immediate project from service learning coursework."

The piece is now available online and open to the public at:https://aejmc.us/jpre/2019/08/17/visionary-public-relations-coursework-leveraging-service-learning-in-public-relations-courses-to-spur-economic-development-through-the-arts-travel-and-tourism/