Sandy Rhoten

Sandy Rhoten, associate dean of students for judicial affairs

Getting the Message Across

Using Rap to Increase Awareness Wins Bronze for Integrity Campaign

February 18, 2008

By Pamela McLaren

“We’ve always been interested in getting students to do the right thing, rather than catching them doing something wrong,” said Sandy Rhoten, associate dean of students for judicial affairs.

So, a year ago, Rhoten and Andi Stein, associate professor of communications — assisted by a team of students — kicked off an integrity campaign with a rap contest.

Last month, “Making Integrity Count: More than 1-2-3” was recognized by the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, receiving a bronze award in the organization's Excellence Award contest that recognized excellence and innovation in student affairs programs and initiatives. The Cal State Fullerton program competed against more than 100 category submissions from across the country.

Funding for the integrity campaign came from a University Planning Initiative.

Explaining that she was looking for ways to get the message of honesty and civility across in a way that was different and attractive to students, Rhoten turned to students in a public relations management class — taught by Diane F. Witmer, professor of communications — to help publicize the contest and increase awareness on campus.

As part of the campaign, the judicial affairs web site was updated and a series of posters for the campus stressing the importance of integrity -- including honesty, responsibility and being civil to others -- was developed.

“We tried to develop quick, easy messages that would get students’ attention and then lead them to the integrity Web site, where they could get more information about what is appropriate both inside and outside the classroom,” said Rhoten, who worked with Howard Chang of University Communications and Marketing on the posters. The posters and a video clip from the rap contest are posted online.

The students developed publicity for the April 16, 2007 event, which featured not only a rap contest, but free food, prize drawings and information.

“It was really fun working with the students,” said Rhoten, who served as master of ceremonies with her own rap song. Marc Dickey, associate professor of music, and Genelle I. Belmas, assistant professor of communications, joined Dean of Students Kandy Mink Salas as judges.

They looked for creativity, key message and audience response. Three finalists were selected with Derek Opina, a sophomore communications major, winning the top prize of a $200 gift certificate from Titan Shops.

“It went very well,” said Rhoten, who is considering making the rap contest an annual event. “I was very pleased. The students worked really hard and their effort benefited the university.”


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