CSU, Chico News

Public Relations Students Win Jack Rawlins Environmental Prize

Date: 11-18-2008

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs

Five public relations seniors were awarded the fall 2008 Jack Rawlins Environmental Prize for their Energy Conservation Awareness Campaign. Seniors Ashley Gunther, Elise Watkins, Emilie Johnson, Jessica Mindt and Katelyn Davis created an awareness campaign to educate California State University, Chico students about the importance of energy conservation. In addition to the $6,000 prize, which the students will share, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has offered to pay for the expenses of the campaign.

The students will work with the Rawlins Advisory Committee to assess Chico State students’ current knowledge of and involvement with sustainability efforts, promote the importance of sustainability through Internet advertising and promotional materials, conduct a first-year student outreach program and hold a culminating celebration in the spring to promote sustainability.

The five students began this project in a public relations strategy class taught by Debra Johnson. Johnson is a professional-in-residence in the Department of Journalism and will be the group’s advisor as they work on the campaign over the next six months.

The group said that they got so much more than they bargained for out of the project, which took many hours of their time over the semester. They have all been members of learning teams throughout their college careers, but this was the first one in which they clicked immediately and became friends as well as working colleagues. The experience has changed their lives, they say, because it has changed their own awareness and use of sustainability practices.

“This has helped me be more sustainable,” said Mindt. “I turn off lights, don’t use plastic bottles and just am more aware of how what I do affects the environment.”

“It is exciting to be recognized and to actually be able to implement our plan for a good cause,” said Gunther. “It is a great opportunity, and we are being supported by so many knowledgeable people. It is nice for public relations students to be recognized in this area of sustainability—often it is students in geography and the sciences.”

The campaign is aimed at first-year students. The first step of the plan is to survey these new students to find out what they know and don’t know, and to determine the level of their energy conservation practices. Then the team will put on several events to increase awareness and energy conservation habits. Their last goal is to increase participation of new students in sustainability programs.

They’ve outlined several supporting strategies that will contribute to the campaign, including using the electronic marquee on Bell Memorial Union and putting information on sandwich boards and ‘’table tents” at Whitney Dining Hall. They are planning a culminating event in spring 2009.

“We want to influence new students,” said Mindt. “They bring a level of awareness with them and haven’t yet chosen what extracurricular activities they’ll participate in. We would like to have them adopt some of these energy conservation ideas and a commitment to sustainability and to pass that on to other students.”

In 2006 Jack Rawlins established the Rawlins Environmental Prize to recognize outstanding student research or projects that raise environmental awareness or directly contribute to increasing sustainability at both the local and global levels. Two $6,000 awards are given annually, one during the fall semester and the other during the spring. In the 2008-2009 academic year, the Rawlins Advisory Committee will be accepting proposals that address new approaches to energy production or conservation, efficient use of waste, agricultural biomass, and water issues.

For more information about the project, you can contact Johnson or team members through Johnson at 530-898-4690.