What started as a class project for Dr. Amy Carwile’s Public Relations Campaigns course at Texas A&M University-Texarkana ended with one student landing what she refers to as her “dream job.”
Students in Public Relations Campaigns, which is offered every other spring, create agency teams and serve as public relations professionals for local nonprofit organization clients selected by Dr. Carwile.
Teams are comprised of an account executive, strategy director, research director, creative director and production director who complete communications plans and deliver their plan-books to their clients in a pitch meeting.
For the spring 2015 semester, Dr. Carwile chose the Alzheimer’s Alliance Tri-State Area of Texarkana, a nonprofit organization that provides information, education and support to improve the quality of life for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Three different teams worked to prepare communication plans for the alliance.
“I always choose a local nonprofit for a couple of reasons,” Dr. Carwile said. “Primarily because I believe that a university has a responsibility to teach students how to become involved in their community and that faculty should share our expertise with local organizations while allowing students the opportunity to put into practice some of the skills they learn in the classroom. The Public Relations Campaigns course is the perfect vehicle for integrating these concepts and ideas.”
Secondarily, Dr. Carwile said, “I choose local nonprofit organizations because these organizations can usually benefit from our help especially if the organization has limited funding for activities like public relations.”
Samantha Armstrong of Avery served as account executive for her team, attending client meetings, contributing to the plan and deliverables, and helping to make the pitch to the client.
“Samantha handled one team member leaving the class before mid-term with grace,” Dr. Carwile said. “She kept her team functioning at an optimal level throughout the semester and delivered an outstanding product for the client, as a true account executive would do at a real public relations agency.”
Executive Director Terrie Arnold was so impressed with the quality of the team’s work, she hired Armstrong as the new director of marketing and development for the alliance.
“The Alzheimer’s Alliance was honored to be selected by Dr. Carwile for the Public Relations Campaigns course. The entire class did an outstanding job helping our organization learn new and better ways of increasing our donor base, maximizing our branding initiative and looking for ways to improve our new signature fundraiser, the Twice As Fine Texarkana Wine Festival,” Arnold said.
“Samantha will be a tremendous asset to our organization. I am truly appreciative of Dr. Carwile for giving us this opportunity and introducing us to Samantha.”
While juggling a full-time schedule at A&M-Texarkana this year, Armstrong will produce a quarterly newsletter and provide community outreach in the 22 counties served by the alliance.
“Alzheimer’s affects more than 17,000 families in our service area covering the tri-state corner of Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma,” said Armstrong, a senior mass communication major.
“I’m so blessed to work with Terrie Arnold and Allan Wren,” Armstrong said. “They are so supportive of my education. I have learned so much from them.”
Armstrong also will be involved in fundraising for the organization, helping to plan campaigns and events such as the Twice as Fine Texarkana Wine Festival, which raised more than $175,000 this year for programs and services.
“I’m able to incorporate everything I am learning at A&M-Texarkana into my work,” Armstrong said. “I love the fact that all of the money we raise stays in the local area to provide much-needed services to families, caregivers and those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
The alliance operates Our Place, a respite center that provides a break from the typical care routine, allowing the caregiver some down time while the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia-related disorders continues to receive care and has opportunities for social interaction. The organization also provides support groups and informational resources.
“Our Friends, as we call them, are so precious and loving. Our volunteers do so much and it’s amazing to soak up their positive energy,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said her work is also very personal to her as her great-grandmother diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a little over a year ago.
“My family always encouraged me to help someone if I can—even if it’s just one person,” Armstrong said. “I feel so blessed to work for an organization that helps so many people.”