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A Campaign Hits the Trail: Professor Fiene’s IMC Students Partner with Local Rail Trail

By Mason Scioneaux

IMC Student

Most, if not all, graduating seniors at the University of Mississippi complete a capstone course for degree completion. But few get to have as practical a hands-on experience as Professor Scott Fiene’s IMC 455 class.

Known as the “Campaigns Class,” it allows the professor to partner with a business, organization or nonprofit for which the students spend the semester catering an advertising campaign to help improve the entity.

“It’s a lot of real-world stuff,” Fiene said. “It’s not only the idea of putting together the campaign and using all the skills learned in the IMC program to roll it into the campaign but there are also things you learn about working with real clients and client management.”

This semester, the campaigns classes have partnered with Three Rivers Planning & Development, a Pontotoc-based nonprofit focusing on economic development in the local community.

The partnership has allowed students to work closely on three projects in which Three Rivers is currently involved: economic development with businesses in Pontotoc, a planned museum in Ecru and the promotion of the Tanglefoot Trail, which is a 43-mile rails-to-trail bike path that runs from New Albany to Houston.  The last of those three is the one that Professor Fiene, who is also an assistant dean for the School of Journalism and New Media, has overseen this semester.

Professor Scott Fiene discusses his experience this semester working with the IMC 455 “Campaigns Class” on a campaign for the local Tanglefoot Trail.

The IMC program landed on the project with the help of M Partner, a community partnership program chartered in 2018 by then-Chancellor Vitter, as well as the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.  The McLean Institute is a university entity that works to “support and increase community engagement throughout the state and with local communities.”

“The McLean Institute has a relationship with Three Rivers Planning & Development, and in conversations with them, I realized that one of the things they wanted help with was promoting the Tanglefoot Trail. So, I talked with the folks at Three Rivers, and that’s how we got (the partnership),” Fiene said. “It’s kind of cool to be able to work with an entity that has a bigger relationship with the university.”

Fiene split his class of 10 students up into two teams of five. He said he has found five to be the “magic number” when it comes to students effectively working together on the campaign.

One of the teams, which calls itself Kudzu Interactive, assembled a 27-page Campaign Booklet outlining campaign objectives, analyses and research, culminating with the “the big idea” – establishing a brand on the idea of “Seven Towns. One Home.”  This is a reference to the seven communities located along the trail (New Albany, Ingomar, Ecru, Pontotoc, Algoma, New Houlka and Houston).  

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