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Senior Public Communication Major Recruits 130 Students for Bone Marrow Donor List

Posted May. 31, 2013

Alan Rhea, senior public communication major with minors in political science and history spearheaded an on-campus campaign for Be The Match, a national bone marrow donor program that supports people with blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, as part of the Communication and Influence course taught by Assistant Professor James Ponder.

Rhea said his first step was to reach out to the organization for support. Tonya Davis, the account executive for the North Central Region, sent flyers to Rhea. Rhea then had to recruit and persuade a team of students to feel personally invested in his campaign, and train them best methods for communicating and recruiting fellow students to sign the pledge.  He used his own contacts in the College Republicans organization, and his networking skills to garner support from fraternities and sororities on campus. Rhea and his team spoke in classes and lectures, wrote public service announcements, shared personal messages on social media and hung flyers on campus.

On April 22, 2013, 130 students came to sign their names on the bone marrow registry list and gave DNA samples from their cheeks.

“I was relieved and happy that we got so many potential donors. I was satisfied with my group that helped me out. It was not a one man effort. I had to motivate and lead people to help me out and they came through.”

Rhea attributed his success to the skills he’s learned in the School of Communication Studies: “Interpersonal and public communication in speeches and networking; mediated communication through contacting the newspaper; leading in small groups and teams; organizational communication in navigating the bureaucracy of a large university,” and his list went on.

“When I first went to the Communication and Influence class and Dr. Ponder told us about the campaign, I thought that this was going to be a lot of work,” Rhea said. “But Ponder motivated me to do something that mattered. He taught us theories and how to grasp people’s attention and persuade an audience.”

“This was the first time I had to lead an effort like this, and it was in my last semester of college,” Rhea added.

Rhea signed up for Be The Match three years ago. “Personally, I signed up because I wanted to help people and give back to those who need it,” Rhea said. “And I did the campaign for the same reason.”

Rhea’s team was made up of undergraduate students Chace Carpenter, who intends to bring the campaign back to Kent State in the Fall 2013 semester, Katie Cookson, Allyssa Manning and Shawn Mercer. He identified and promoted three reasons to persuade students to sign the list. He focused on how a student’s signature would help other people and that it likely wouldn’t affect them too much. New bone marrow extraction techniques make the process less painful, and there is a minimal 1 percent chance of finding a matching donor. The benefit is that if a match is found, the donor can save the person’s life completely.

Throughout his campaign, Rhea said his leadership and public speaking capabilities changed the most.

“Public speaking scared me,” he said. “But when you want something to succeed you do what it takes. It’s not just one person that made this a success, I thank my group for what they did.”

By Anne Dudley