UW–Platteville students in the department of media studies Crisis Planning and Communication class practiced their professional skills in crisis communication on Nov. 14.
A mock press conference scenario was held for a fire that consumed Brockert Hall, a gunman at large and potentially hazardous materials that forced an evacuation of the west side of campus and the west side of the city of Platteville.
This mock crisis scenario was designed to be a test of how these public relations students could handle a large crisis scenario, and was meant to engage students in learning. It was also designed for the purpose of practicing the skills taught throughout the semester on how to represent an organization during a crisis.
Dr. BJ Reed, media studies professor, coined the exercise for the purpose of finding new ways for students to learn.
“There is a lot of emphasis in teaching today in engaging students,” said Reed. “They can’t learn if they aren’t engaged.
During the exercise, students were assigned to 10 different teams that would be involved in the crisis. Their goal was to represent them in a realistic, professional way. This included adhering to all privacy laws and abiding by investigation restrictions. The groups that students represented included the university administration, University Police, local fire departments, Southwest Health Center, Counseling Services, government agencies and news outlets."
Within these groups students chose a community advisor. These advisors came from not just the Platteville community, but Madison as well.
Reed stressed the value of different opinions and perspectives. “It’s the most important part, honestly,” said Reed. “Different experiences make all opinions valuable to learning.”
Reed said the class itself is a rather unique experience in higher education. “There aren’t many public relations programs with a crisis class, but it’s growing,” said Reed.
Because of the increasing popularity in crisis communication, Reed hopes that the class can grow in the future to include more departments than only media studies.
“It’s a good course to take in other areas like criminal justice, education and business,” said Reed. “I do hope that eventually we can grow this program.”