Last June, C.J. Washington assumed the position of executive director at Sheltered Work Opportunities of Bryan County (SWO), a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to providing vocational training, employment experiences and job opportunities to adults with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.
Washington said shortly after becoming executive director, she realized there was not much information about the organization in the community. She began to contemplate marketing strategies to increase public awareness.
“Part of my goal was to develop partnerships and relationships in the community, so I contacted Southeastern,” she said.
Washington emailed the marketing department at the university. “I told them I really needed help,” she said. “Dr. Haley emailed me back and said, ‘Let’s figure out how we can work on this.’”
Dr. Debra Haley, an award-winning marketing professor, has served on the Southeastern faculty since 1998. She said she has done many civic engagement projects with her classes over the years.
After talking with Washington, Haley assigned the students in her Promotional Strategy class to develop proposals for a marketing plan for SWO.
Haley said she is thrilled with the amount of work the students put into the project.
“They really went out of their way, didn’t they,” she said with excitement in her voice. “With projects like this, students seem to catch fire – they become very excited about helping an organization.
“I’m very pleased to see that the students have taken this so seriously and have done such a fine job.”
The students presented their proposals to Washington, who will decide on the best strategy for SWO. The presentations were extremely impressive and it was evident that the students had done their research. They were passionate and knowledgeable about the organization.
One student said, “This isn’t even about the grade anymore. It was a way for us to be more aware of the program.”
Some students had spoken to other organizations like SWO in neighboring states and called local businesses to inquire about partnerships and promotional items. The students outlined financial goals, target markets, establishing an image and presented Washington with one and two year goals for the organizations.
“These are really well done. Everything you guys are bringing to me is amazing,” she told the students. “I appreciate that all of you have picked up the enthusiasm of just how amazing working with adults with disabilities is to me and how the community has not been able to experience that.”
Haley agreed. “I’m very impressed with the quality of projects I’ve seen in these proposals.”
Washington said she enjoyed partnering with the university. “I’m really grateful for the partnership. We brought ideas to young, energetic minds and they have given me a plethora of ideas and information. Non-profit organizations usually don’t have the opportunity to plug into this kind of enthusiasm being shaped by Dr. Haley’s expertise and knowledge.”
She added that she hopes to expand the partnership to other departments at Southeastern.
Haley said she is excited the students had the opportunity to work with SWO.
“These kind of projects make students realize that they have something to give and something to offer,” she said. “Our student projects, in part, result in building a sense of competence, confidence and, in giving back to the community, enrich our students as well as the organization they are helping.”