Dorcas International classroom.
This semester, Bryant students created a variety of communication recommendations for Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island — a nonprofit dedicated to helping immigrants, refugees, and vulnerable Rhode Islanders. (Photo credit: Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island)
Seniors develop communication strategies for RI organization helping immigrants, refugees
May 14, 2024, by Emma Bartlett

Bryant’s senior Communication majors were on a mission this semester when they learned they would be acting as consultants for Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island — a nonprofit dedicated to helping immigrants, refugees, and vulnerable Rhode Islanders who are looking to overcome educational, cultural, economic, legal, and language barriers. Developing a variety of messaging recommendations to reach the organization’s various audiences, the class of 15 presented their final proposals to Dorcas representatives in early May.

“Our goal is to improve the lives of the clients who are currently utilizing resources at Dorcas, as well as the ones who will be coming in the future,” says Allison Kostiw ’24, whose group conducted a survey on clients’ familiarity with Dorcas’ website and its offerings.

Discovering that respondents desired more vocational classes and a social support network, the group developed several messaging recommendations that could be implemented immediately.

“The support group for clients could either be biweekly or monthly,” says Courtney Paolantonio ’24, noting that the organization can survey its clients for the types of support groups they’d like to see. “We really want to go the extra mile to help Dorcas’ clients achieve not only their short-term goals, but their long-term goals.”

Given the clients’ interest in vocational classes, the group noted that Dorcas could explore vocational offerings or provide a list of outside resources on its website. The group then explained how the organization could measure the success of its implementations.

This consultant project is part of Julie Volkman, Ph.D.’s “Senior Capstone for Communication/Digital Communication” course, where undergrads apply the concepts they’ve learned over the past four years to a real-world problem. While seniors partner with a different organization each year, the objective is the same.

“We let students dive deep into audience analysis and realize the uniqueness of each audience and the communication challenges they're facing,” says Volkman, an associate professor of Communication and Language Studies. “This project is going to be valuable to them when they go on the job market, do interviews, and can show the work they've done.”

For Dorcas, students worked to improve the following communication channels: messaging surrounding the organization’s international clients; media relationships; government relationships; community awareness; and development of a donation drive.

For Mia Zajac ’24, having the opportunity to apply the theoretical concepts she’s learned in the classroom throughout her college career has been extremely helpful. Her group, which focused on community engagement, used several theories — such as the information seeking concept and theory of motivation information management — to inform their approaches for designing a summer event for Dorcas’ clients, volunteers, and teachers.

Taking inspiration from the nonprofit’s past events, the group proposed an intimate gathering on the WaterFire Arts Center rooftop deck that would tie into June’s Immigration Appreciation Month. The event will feature cultural food and activities.

“Attendees will have the opportunity to bring cultural items and traditions to share during this event,” says Zajac. “Because it will be smaller and secluded, we think people will be more prone to opening up to each other and sharing stories.”

The group noted that the communication for the event would be distributed to Dorcas' teachers, who would share the information with their clients and students.

“It can bridge the gap between the clients and everyone else to make the Dorcas community stronger as a whole,” Zajac says.

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