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Arnold School of Public Health

Seniors improve community programs and learn public health competencies through capstone class experience

July 20, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, 

Over 150 public health majors worked together to raise nearly $40,000 in cash, goods and volunteer hours for 16 Midlands not-for-profit organizations this past spring. The students were seniors participating in a Senior Seminar Team Fundraising Challenge that was coordinated by Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Student Services Sara Corwin. Clinical Assistant Professor Kara Montgomery, Instructor/Advisor Charlotte Galloway and Instructor/Advisor Christine Palmer designed and taught the new capstone course—the success and scale of which would not be possible without their expertise and collaboration, according to Corwin.

“While giving back to the local community was a priority, the intent of the course was also to provide students with opportunities to gain exposure to and experiences in ‘real life’ public health settings,” says Corwin. “As our seniors graduate and leave us, we need to know they are prepared with a set of skills valuable for the next chapter in their lives.”

Students were randomly assigned to teams of five students and required to select a project leader, an accountant, a communication/public relations manager and two logistics specialists. Each of the 33 teams were matched with a community-based organization (CBO) and tasked with fund raising. After meeting with their CBO, students planned and implemented campaigns to meet the minimum goal of $500, which was established by course faculty.

During the semester, students completed nine individual and team assignments designed to help enhance their skills in strategic planning, analytical and problem solving, communication and leadership. “These competencies are all essential to public health practice,” says Corwin. “So we ensured that they were integrated into the assignments in such a way that students could leave the course and graduate with this particular set of skills and knowledge.”

Students were asked to reflect on their assignments both at the beginning of the course, as they anticipated their experiences, and then at the end, after they had completed all of the assignments. “The team fundraising challenge has given me the opportunity to both assert my strengths for the team’s good and to grow in confidence in those strengths,” says Allison Saige, whose team placed 4th in the team challenge. “The project has also given me the opportunity to work with a group of individuals who prior to the project I had no experience working with. I learned to communicate regularly and clearly, to respect and listen to the ideas of others, and to offer constructive criticism—all with strangers.”

Saige also noted that she was able to see several public health concepts in action (e.g., how individual, social, and cultural factors interact to influence public health). “The public health issue that St. Lawrence Place works to address, homelessness, is complex with many individual and societal factors interacting to create and fuel the issue,” says Saige.

Faculty members used several criteria in ranking the winning teams, which included performance on individual and team assignments, attendance, ratings of team functioning and fundraising amounts. The five highest scoring teams were recognized at a Community Partner Appreciation Luncheon held on Saturday, April 30 at the Arnold School’s Public Health Research Center, and the overall project was featured in a WIS Good News community segment.

Senior Seminar Team Fundraising Challenge Winners

 St. Lawrence Place
Team 9
 The Free Medical Clinic
Team 21
 The Oliver Gospel Mission
Team 19
 St. Lawrence Place
Team 14
The Therapy Place
Team 1

 Liza Chafin

Katy Hallman

Mary Grace Loveless

 Ashley Martin

Caroline Hayden

Nicole O'Janovac

Travis Lazaroff

Austin Luera

Saige Allison

Lauren Drummond

 Aliyah Small

Maggie Roberts

Rickeia Peterkin

Paulina Peralta

Hannah Livingston

Kaleb Carter

Rebecca Sowers

Hannah Dotson

Gabriel Diaz

Toby Tyler

Kristin Jeffcoat

Shanetra Bryant

Brittany Thigpen

Gabriela Perry

Samantha Shaddix


Participating Community-Based Organizations:

 Big Brother Big Sisters

Pets Inc.

Boys & Girls Club

American Red Cross

Conservation Voters of SC

Ronald McDonald House


SC Campaign to Prevent Teen  Pregnancy

Free Med Clinic

Senior Resources

National Alliance on Mental Illness

St. Lawrence Place

Oliver Gospel Mission

Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands

Palmetto Place Childrens Shelter

The Therapy Place



















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