University of Tennessee

First-year Business Students Help Nonprofits through Public Writing Course

March 29, 2015

A group of students at the Haslam College of Business have launched Indiegogo fundraising campaigns supporting four local charities as part of an assignment in a class fulfilling their English requirement. Public Writing utilizes the fundamentals of rhetoric to help students compose a publicity strategy including social media posts, blog entries, a video and website content.

The course is part of the Venture Living Learning Community, a Haslam learning community where students live in the same residence hall, take common courses and participate in enrichment together outside of class. Professor Robin Gray Nicks, who leads the class, says the decision to incorporate the Indiegogo component came from a desire to challenge the students and give emphasis to the service aspect of Venture. “Students are growing up with an almost innate ability to churn out a solid video and a website, so I wanted to up the stakes,”Nicks says.

Students will support five fundraising goals: new signage and a new kitten play area for the Humane Society, a women’s shelter room renovation for the Salvation Army, fuel cards for the families of cancer patients at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, and classroom kits and trip sponsorships for Junior Achievement of East Tennessee. More information on the projects may be found at

Nicks intends for the fundraising projects to help students understand the kinds of writing tasks they will encounter in the professional world. “They must communicate with their partner organizations and plan rhetorical strategies for them,” she says. “It’s been a good lesson for students in what it’s like to communicate with a variety of people in a variety of situations.”

The Department of English has partnered with Venture to create business-specific courses since the program’s inception six years ago. Nicks has taught the English course for five years.

To read the student proposals or donate to the initiatives, please visit

For more information about Haslam’s Venture Living Learning Community, please visit