Kohawks complete community-based project with local nonprofit arts organization

CSPS PosterCommunity matters at Coe, and throughout the fall term a group of Kohawks worked together to provide valuable insights for a Cedar Rapids’ institution.

Professional writing students working with Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Director of the Writing Center Dr. Jane Nesmith engaged in a community-based project with CSPS, a Cedar Rapids nonprofit arts venue and community organization located in the NewBo neighborhood. The project goal was to assist CSPS reach and attract more college students to its music, theater and art events. 

Catherine Lane, the events and program manager at CSPS, reached out to Nesmith over the summer with this project idea. The class then met with her and CSPS Executive Director Jason Zbornik early in the term to brainstorm and make plans for the project. 

After the initial meeting, students in Nesmith’s professional writing class investigated student interest in local arts events. Working in teams, the class created and administered a survey to over 80 students, conducted in-depth interviews with nine of those students, and facilitated user-interface testing of the organization’s website.

“The class discovered some interesting, and somewhat surprising, data about students and the local arts scene. For example, social media isn’t always the best way to reach college students. Word of mouth and campus flyers have a stronger impact on students’ decisions about their entertainment options,” Nesmith said. 

Based on the research, the class recommended that CSPS forge connections with Coe faculty and student organizations to spread the word about upcoming events of interest to college students. The organization could also consider inviting Coe performers to the CSPS stage. Nesmith said the recommendations were appreciated and well-received.

Real world application of classroom concepts is a staple of a Coe education, and students involved found the experience to be both illuminating and rewarding.

"Working with CSPS was a unique and enriching experience. It gave me the chance to apply the professional skills I had learned throughout the semester to a real company, helping me understand the concepts in a way that you can't get from just a textbook. It was also nice to work with and promote a local business because community is such an important part of life at Coe," said Kayla Staley ’24.

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