A team of public relations students representing The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University (WSU) received an Honorable Mention by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). The team of Steffen Stroup, Alberto Vázquez, Madison Miller and Micah Peyron created the Veterans Connection Event to bridge the gap between civilian student and student veteran populations in the WSU community. The mission was to provide information on services and resources for vets, as well as hot drinks and a sitting area for students to gather and talk to each other.

The team was singled out with an honorable mention award in The Bateman Case Study Competition after the PRSSA challenged participants to raise awareness and spark local and national dialogue around the importance of education. This challenge was in partnership with Student Veterans of America (SVA), The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, and Edelman.

Advisor Chris Cooney, a clinical assistant professor of communications at the Murrow College was especially impressed by the team’s first-time efforts. “I’m very proud of our team and the campaign they developed. We all enjoyed working with our student veterans and the people who empower them at WSU. I’m glad we were able to raise awareness of veterans’ service to our country and how a college degree builds on their military experience to enable lifelong success.”

Six designs of “I Served” buttons were handed out: one for each of the major military service branches — Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy — and one for students who have family members or close friends who have served or are serving in the military. The idea was for students to display these on backpacks or bags and, when they see other students with them, they will know they have a connection based around the military.

“The event itself blew every expectation I had out of the water,” said veteran and WSU student Aaron Fisher. “There were people walking up and taking pins from the maintenance crew to a dean of one of the colleges, which made me say, ‘Wow I had no idea.’ So it was very cool.”

In addition, a service map allowed nearly 200 veterans to place pins on the countries they served, providing an element that struck a chord with veterans. “Once you get out of the military, you are kind of lost in a sense,” said Mike Soloman, the Student Veterans Association (SVA) current chairman. “Seeing people in different areas, foreign and domestic, it was a great conversation piece, and there was never a dull moment. The board itself really brought us back to that time and place that we were many years ago.”

Not only was the event successful in connecting students on campus to their fellow student veterans, it also helps connect vets to services available on campus. “There was a ton of energy out there. It was everything I could have hoped for out of an event like that. Overall impression was just a very excellent job,” said WSU Veteran Coordinator Blaine Golden.

The Bateman Case Study Competition is PRSSA’s premier national case study competition for public relations students, which gives students an opportunity to apply education and internship experiences to create and implement a full public relations campaign. Each year, students from universities across the country compete to research, plan, implement and evaluate a comprehensive public relations campaign.

As part of the college’s first efforts, the team worked closely with the local Student Veterans of America group, the WSU Office of Veterans Affairs, and the WSU Office of Veterans Affairs in creating the campaign.

“While this is a win for our Murrow students, the campaign itself has proven to be a real winner in the way it connected student veterans at WSU with other students, along with organizations that support them on campus,” Cooney said.