Mason and VCU Students Partner for Community Service Project

Posted: May 22, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

In a unique partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students, George Mason Communication Department students under the supervision of Chair Cindy Lont have produced an educational video for the nonprofit agency Brain Injury Services Inc.

Last semester, VCU students Barbara Mayfield and Ashlea Philipps, master of social work candidates and interns at Brain Injury Services, approached Lont and Joe Wen, a second-year student in Mason’s Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in Video Based Production Program, to seek help and resources to produce the video. Lont submitted the project to the Mason Media Lab, a learning facility that supports teams in developing multimedia projects for academic and administrative clients within the university and for corporate and nonprofit clients. Through the lab, students had access to high-quality multimedia editing stations and instructional support.

Sixteen students from Lont’s Theory of Visual Communication class worked on the project. They were divided into teams according to their interests: scriptwriting, graphics, videography, and editing. Michael Kelley, executive director of the Capitol Connection, narrated the video, and Gary Plaag, a communication student and assistant to the executive producer, coached the clients and employees featured in the video on how to appear informal and relaxed on camera. In addition to producing the eight-minute video, the students designed a logo for the agency.

“We are so pleased with the video,” says Karen Brown, executive director for Brain Injury Services. “The students were professional in every step of the process. We could not have hired a production company that could have done better.” The video recently won an Innovations Award from the George Mason University Century Club for Most Effective Corporate Interaction.

“Not only is this project a partnership with two different universities, but it also involves two different disciplines—social work and communication—which normally do not interact with one another,” says Lont. “We were pulling from a variety of graduate and undergraduate programs, and all the pieces came together to make this a very important community service project.”

Brain Injury Services will use the video to generate funds, inform prospective clients of the agency’s services, and recruit volunteers. State budget cuts affecting the agency make the project especially necessary, and the video will allow the agency to reach out to many different audiences to increase awareness of its services.

“Prospective clients of Brain Injury Services who see the video will know there is an organization out there that can help them,” says Wen, executive producer of the video. “Everything fell into place to make this project happen.”

Brain Injury Services plans to show the video during the annual Kit Callahan’s Miracle Mile walk-a-thon, which will take place Sept. 14 at George Mason. Proceeds from the event will go to Brain Injury Services, the National Rehabilitation and Rediscovery Foundation, and the Northern Virginia Brain Injury Association.

“It’s wonderful that George Mason University reached out to form a partnership with the community in this way,” says Brown. “It demonstrates the caliber of the university.”

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