Otterbein Course Puts Students to Work Serving the Common Good

Posted Jan 29, 2021

Serving the common good is a foundational aspect of the Otterbein experience, both in and out of the classroom. With that in mind, two Department of Communication faculty members teamed up to teach an in Integrative Studies (INST) course combining service-learning and storytelling.  

INST 3010: Telling Community Stories for the Common Good explored the relationship between journalists and communities, the concept of civic journalism, and how to promote a community and “restore it,” using techniques common to public relations. The class was taught by senior communication instructors Michael Moon and Denise Shively.  

“You can learn and grow more by actually doing something rather than being buried in a textbook,” Moon said. “Connecting our students with the needs of the community really shows Otterbein’s commitment to the world around us.” 

Telling Community Stories 2

Students in the course were paired with one of six central Ohio community organizations that all needed different forms of communication assistance. They worked with the Columbus Historical Society, Stonewall Columbus, Four Seasons City Farm, Raise Your Voice, Neighborhood Bridges, and the Otterbein Office of Social Justice and Activism.  

Projects included capturing stories of organizational histories, social media assistance, creation of promotional materials, and many other needs. Each group was also assigned additional reading material to provide further insight into their organizations. 

Moon and Shively wanted to show their students just how much people can be inspired by stories. However, some organizations find it challenging to get their stories out to the public. This is where these students can be the most valuable.  

Daniel Ingwersen, co-founder of Four Seasons City Farm in Columbus, invited a group of Otterbein students to work on the organization’s social media presence to attract more volunteers. 

Telling Community Stories

“You’ve got a population that’s going to then share more with their friends and possibly affect change on a greater scale down the line,” Ingwersen said of his partnership with the students.  

Moon produced a video about the Four Seasons City Farm project to explain the project and demonstrate the power of storytelling. 

Senior Gwen Hughes was part of the group that worked with Stonewall Columbus. She said the class has inspired her to do more work telling the stories that the public needs to hear. 

“We worked primarily to connect the history of Stonewall with our current times and the challenges we are facing. We were able to show connections between the COVID-19 pandemic and the beginning of the AIDS crises in the 1980s. Groups like these have the right to tell their stories like everyone else, and we wanted to facilitate that important work as best we could,” Hughes said. 

Hughes mentions that this opportunity, which included interviewing Stonewall volunteers and people in the LGBTQ+ community, gave her the ability to have more open dialogues and conversations about difficult topics. In turn, she has started to develop a deeper connection and discourse with her uncle, a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“We definitely served the common good, not just in the central Ohio community but also in our lives that we can take forward with us wherever we go and make a positive, meaningful impact,” Hughes said.