Panthers on the Prowl! A Cluster Learning project in motion
Panthers on the Prowl! A Cluster Learning project in motion
Plymouth State 150 “Panther Prowl” Provides Real World Experience
The pandemic curtailed numerous traditions during Plymouth State University’s 150th anniversary year, including cancellations of the Fall 2020 Homecoming celebration, typically among the most festive of annual activities, and the joyous, photo-friendly jaunt through town otherwise known as the Commencement procession. Rather than mourn these losses, Professor Denise Hutchins’s Event Marketing students chose to see them as a Cluster Learning opportunity that may well continue and inaugurate a new PSU chapter.

Creating and promoting events requires knowledge of branding, target market analysis, project management, promotion, and more. Students learn and apply these concepts through the implementation of large-scale events on campus, which in previous years have included rail jams, chili cook-offs, and career fairs.

“At the beginning of the spring semester, we brainstormed ideas and wanted to do something for Homecoming,” says Lena Warner ’22. “We presented our ideas to the Faculty Fundraising Committee and it gave us feedback, and we also presented to the Homecoming Committee, which includes University Advancement staff, athletics, UPD, and others.” The Staff Senate was on board as well.

The class made use of Open Educational Resources instead of costly textbooks, and students and Professor Hutchins also shared their collective prior knowledge of planning and attending events through classroom discussions.

After semesters in which PSU’s hallmark collegiality was muted by remote formats and social distancing, the “Panther Prowl” was conceived as a fundraiser where students, faculty, staff, and alumni could reconnect and have some fun. Participants wore Plymouth State apparel and walked from campus, through town, and to the football field in time for the Homecoming game.

During the spring planning phase, project managers, including Warner, led teams of fellow students and worked directly with Professor Hutchins on assignments. Hutchins has taught the course for several years, but this was the first time that the planned event was scheduled to take place in a subsequent semester. Warner was among those who continued to be involved through fall’s weekly meetings, though not for credit or compensation. “I put a lot of work into it and wanted to see the final product,” she says.

A communication and media studies major with a marketing minor, Warner already had some fundraising background. “I work in the Holmes House Alumni Office as part of the calling program and we make scripts to guide us through the phone calls,” she says. “When I asked alumni if they were coming to Homecoming this year, I tweaked a script to add that we were also planning a walk for student scholarships.”

“We wanted to raise money for scholarships and donations to the PSU Food Pantry, but to also allow everyone to come together after COVID and rebuild our community,” says Hutchins. “This event really brought together various parts of campus. Students learned about the value of interdisciplinarity and that we can accomplish more through collaboration.”

Cluster Learning extends beyond the four walls of the classroom, providing tangible lessons that motivate students. “It wasn’t Professor Hutchins saying, ‘learn this for the exam’, it was working as a team and more like we’re working for the Plymouth State Homecoming Committee,” says Warner. “That’s the biggest take-away, that we weren’t doing a mock event, we were planning a real event and were more engaged.

“If I want to go into event planning in the future, I feel like I would have some awesome skills from this class,” Warner adds. “Real-world experience is the best way to put it, and I think I’m going to remember more.”