MOE SIMMONS | STAFF REPORTER
Rachel Forsyth is a senior at Butler University who is taking a public relations course this semester. Little did she know she would be making a difference in the lives of the homeless community in Indianapolis.
“We found that people want to help the homeless in Indy,” Forsyth said. “But they don’t know how. Like, they don’t know what organizations exist and they don’t know what outlets exist. So More Than 4 Walls are trying to raise awareness for homeless.”
Forsyth, Grace Herron, Evan Krauss and Kendall Mason are members of the group that has designed More Than 4 Walls, a public relations campaign, designed to combat the housing crisis in the Indianapolis community. They work with Home Matters America, an organization aiming to ensure that all Americans have access to a safe living environment, according to its website.
There are between 4,800 and 8,000 homeless people in Indianapolis, according to the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention. More Than 4 Walls wants to bring attention to this statistic.
Forsyth, a senior strategic communications major, said the group has gone to at least eight after-school programs and asked the children to draw and explain what home means to them. They have also interacted with businesses, schools and residences throughout the community to bring awareness to the homelessness problem.
“This has been a very eye-opening experience,” Forsyth said. “Kind of getting to know the community and what its needs are outside of just Butler’s immediate campus.”
Junior Evan Krauss, a junior digital media production and strategic communications major, designed flyers and logos for the group. He recently switched majors and was initially tentative about participating. But one visit to the school changed his perspective.
“Seeing these little kids’ hearts, and that they will be in any situation that any harm can be done to them ever,with not having a home or basic needs, like shelter or food, was just devastating,” Krauss said. “It was definitely the school visit that got me invested into the cause and listening to the kids.”
Krauss said he hopes the impact the group has made will be long-lasting.
“People cannot take for granted what they have,” he said. “Just the basic shelter, security, is a huge thing. Never take those for granted. There are kids much younger than you that are at risk and at need. As a campaign that’s one of the biggest things we can do: Get the word out there.”
This course is part of the nationwide Bateman course, which provides an opportunity for upperclassmen to participate in the annual Bateman case-study competition sponsored by the Public Relations Student Society of America.
Each campaign group goes through different phases of the competition, according to the PRSSA website. Students tackle a real-life case for an actual client and compete against other universities nationally, then a panel of leading practitioners evaluates the effectiveness of the students’ case submission, said Bob Schultz, the course’s adjunct professor.
From Dec. 1 to Jan. 31, each group has to research and plan about their topic and how they are going to promote it.
The groups implement their plans from Feb. 1 to 28. The groups shut down their social media sites and campaigns on March 1. They write their reports and send them in to the PRSSA headquarters by March 27.
Schultz, who is also the senior vice president of marketing, communications and events for downtown Indy, said he is proud of the impact Butler’s Bateman teams are making.
“The students are out in the community, conducting real world PR and applying all that they have learned from the classroom in a competitive environment,” he said. “They rise to the occasion and represent the Butler Way in all they do.”
Schultz said in the previous years, the Bateman competitions covered topics such as digital banking, financial literacy and organizations for childhood obesity.
Forsyth said she would recommend the course to anyone interested in the field of strategic communication.
“It offers you real world experience that you couldn’t get with any other class,” she said. “You literally get to do all phases of the campaign. It’s awesome. If you want real world experience before actually entering the real world, this is about as real as it gets.”