Seniors produce book
in JCM capstone course


When you refer to "the freshman 15," most people think you're talking about the 15 pounds of unwanted body weight many young people gain when they endure their first year in college.

At Elon, that flabby image is morphing into a new college guide.

It all began when students in a Spring 2005 senior-capstone class accepted Professor David Copeland's invitation to test their skills, meeting the challenge by planning, producing, printing and marketing a book for incoming freshmen at Elon University in just over three months. Titled "The Freshman 15: A Freshman's Guide to Looking Like a Sophomore," the $15 book is now available at Elon's Campus Shop.

The project has been the talk of the campus community, and Fox18-TV News Charlotte taped interviews in mid-May to produce a feature piece on the book.

As the group's marketing materials tell it, "It began as a dream; 16 students on a mission to create a masterpiece of educational literature in a little under four months. Under the direction of a fearless leader (Copeland), these 16 brave souls undertook a senior-seminar project that was unheard of within the academic community: create, market, publish and promote an educational guide to college."

The project was inspired by the popularity of generalized college guides that fill shelf after shelf in bookstores.

"In the beginning, we focused on evaluating our competition and selecting a target audience," Corporate Communications major Rikki Nimmo said. "We decided narrowing our book subject to Elon would allow us to use our own resources and expertise as current students. From there, our target audience was easy to identify as incoming Elon freshmen."

The senior-seminar students realized their experience could be of value to new Elon students.

"We decided our book would stand out because it is a book for the future students from the current ones," Julie Salvatore, a Corporate Communications major, explained.

The students used surveys, focus groups and other information-gathering techniques to determine the type of content the book should carry. The focus group involved students from the Charlotte area who had been accepted into Elon's fall 2005 entering class.

"I even went undercover as a prospective student to see what sort of questions they really have and what information they are really getting from the admissions counselors," Nimmo said.

After assembling this information the students developed a plan for the content of each of the 15 chapters and the style of the book. They also created a printing-budget proposal and successfully presented it to officials in the School of Communications, Elon's Student Government Association and the Office of Student Undergraduate Research. Included in the budget were hypothetical prices for publicity materials such as posters, flyers, book signings and advertisement fees and the actual costs for items such as printing, bar codes and an ISBN number, something that a book must have in order to be sold at a store such as Elon's Campus Shop.

Students used funds from the above sources to print 350 copies of the 72-page book. All profits from book sales will go to scholarships for students attending the School of Communications.

Chapter titles include Preparation E, Dorm Life, Food, Communication, Transportation, Finance, Academics, Clubs and Organizations, Athletics, Social, Breaking the Bubble, Health, Study Abroad, Elon Law and Sex and Relationships. The book also carries appendixes that give basic facts about Elon, a guide to terms and places around Elon and maps of different nightspots, restaurants and places students often visit in Elon and Burlington.

The tone of the writing is breezy and informative to suit the needs of the target audience, which was pegged at being the 8,000 16- to 18-year-olds who annually apply to try to gain one of 1,250 potential open spots at Elon. "The Freshman 15" also includes many useful lists that also employ a twist of humor.

"Overall, creating the book was a great experience, because it let all of the students in our class use their own concentrations to help develop something concrete that shows how much each of us learned at Elon," Nimmo explained.

Copeland sees the project as proof of the type of talent Elon students cultivate and grow in their years at the university.

"The communications capstone course is designed as a way to assess whether our students have mastered the skills and concepts we teach," he said. "With this project, the students created a great idea that made all of them cooperate and use their respective knowledge. Corporate students created a marketing plan. Journalism students edited the book. Cinema students and broadcast students created the visuals. All of them wrote chapters and helped shape the content of the book.

"Because of the time restraints of the semester, the students had to work together. Some, naturally, took leadership roles, but all of them contributed. It is amazing to see how much teamwork and excitement is generated when students create a project that, to them, is worthwhile and challenging."



Share your news and items of interest. To contact us, e-mail:
School of Communications 
2850 Campus Box 
Elon, NC 27244-2010   (336) 278-5724 
Last Modified:  5/21/05
Copyright Elon University