A New Park & Partnership: This is what happens when local leaders collaborate with college students

When you ask Fort Wayne area college students where they want to live and work when they graduate, they might tell you a big city or somewhere on the coast. But there are ways that the City of Fort Wayne and other local organizations are working behind the scenes to engage students in what’s happening here—and maybe convince them to stay in the process.

Take the recent Grand Opening of Riverfront Fort Wayne’s Promenade Park, for example.

You probably saw video advertisements for the event on Facebook and other forms of media. But did you know that seven media production students participated in a Purdue University Fort Wayne summer class to produce social media advertisements for Riverfront Fort Wayne as well? Brandon Blumenherst

Purdue Fort Wayne students were given the task to produce eight social media ads over the summer related to the City or Riverfront through a new, specialized broadcasting course. This course started in the 2019 spring semester as a partnership among the City of Fort Wayne, PUNCH Films, and the Center for Collaborative Media at Purdue Fort Wayne.

“It was the result of a series of conversations between community partners,” says Dr. Art Herbig, the course instructor at Purdue Fort Wayne.

Herbig says the community partnership developed out of a mutually shared interest amongst all three partners—an interest to work together to provide opportunities for students and value to the community at the same time.

Afterall, students who took the course got real-world work experience in developing video ads and seeing their work appear as part of a public marketing campaign. They got the chance to collaborate firsthand with city officials, too.

“It gives students an opportunity to build on skills that they are learning about in classes out in the world,” Herbig explains.

Along with the responsibility of producing work for a real client, students also had the safety net of course instructors as advisors to give them feedback and help them grow professionally.

“It’s an opportunity for a student to operate with a net that they wouldn’t get normally,” Herbig adds.

At the start of the summer session, students met with leaders at the City of Fort Wayne and Riverfront Fort Wayne to gain a better understanding of what they wanted to be produced. For these local officials, it all went back to public input.

Over the course of several years of planning, Riverfront Fort Wayne was developed and supported by ideas from the greater Fort Wayne community. The goal of the videos was to bring these community conversations and ideas to light.

“From the beginning of Riverfront Fort Wayne, the City has strived to engage and unite the entire community in the initiative, beginning with public input meetings to hear what residents envisioned for Promenade Park,” explains Natalie Eggeman, Public Information Officer for the Mayor’s Office.

Riverfront Fort Wayne's Promenade Park opened to the public on August 9, 2019.

So public input was crucial in the development of the park, and many of the videos produced in the Purdue Fort Wayne class focused on increasing public knowledge to hopefully provide more chances for the public to give feedback to the City through comments, messages, and emails.

Students spent the first few weeks of the summer semester planning out their film projects, figuring out the logistics of multiple shoots over several days. This meant honing their innovative, media production skills while also developing their organizational skills.

One student, Gus Macqueen, says his group developed an eight-part children’s science show series to explain the natural characteristics of Fort Wayne’s rivers. One episode focused on water clarity, another on wetlands, and another on the city’s water treatment facility. These projects helped illustrate many processes and traits of the three rivers.

“Specialized broadcasting was a fantastic experience from a personal and professional perspective,” Macqueen says. “I feel far more confident with my ability to schedule interviews, plan out shoots, and develop a series from the ground up.”

From group-to-group, projects varied from a video series of local business spotlights to highlighting accessibility features in Promenade Park.

Eggeman says the City was pleased with the variety of content Purdue students came up with.

“There was a wonderful mix of funny, informative, silly, and eye-opening videos,” she says.

At the grand opening of Promenade Park, the video ads were shown in the Park Foundation Pavilion for people to enjoy at their leisure. The videos will also be posted on the social media accounts of the City of Fort Wayne and Riverfront Fort Wayne, so keep an eye out to see the students’ work for yourself.

Both Eggeman and Herbig agree that they would like to see future partnerships between the City of Fort Wayne, the Center for Collaborative Media, and Purdue University Fort Wayne.

After all, why not engage college students in public projects for practical experience?

Read more articles by Brandon Blumenherst.

Brandon Blumenherst is a student at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Brandon graduated from Homestead High School in 2017. He was awarded the prestigious Chapman Scholarship at Purdue University Fort Wayne where he is pursuing two majors in Political Science and Communication and two minors in Public Relations and Media Production.
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