N.C. Municipal League, Sunshine Center Partner to Create Educational Materials

Elon University communications students are working with the North Carolina League of Municipalities in a joint multimedia effort on public records.  Elon University is home to the Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition.  One of the goals of the Sunshine Center is to foster awareness of the state’s open government laws.  Margot Christensen, public affairs director for the league, pointed out that there are more towns in North Carolina, such as Cleveland and Columbia, than cities such as Charlotte.

"Most small towns have a small number of employees and limited resources,” Christensen said.  “Anything we can do to provide resources and materials about open government will help them understand and comply with what the law requires.”

The students, all seniors, are working on the project as a capstone experience that bridges the skills they’ve learned in class to outcomes. 

“It’s exciting to work with clients trying to solve real problems,” senior Kimberly Cote. “It puts the important skills of communication professionals at the forefront.”

Faculty member, Vic Costello, is heading up the project.  It’s the second one he’s led about open government. 

“Last spring we worked with high school students and were excited to see the real difference in their understanding of the laws,” Costello said. “This project will be farther reaching in that as city administrators better understand the laws it in turn impacts every resident of the state.” 

In a recent focus groups with city clerks from the towns of Burlington, Ramseur, Reidsville, Kernersville, Lewiston and Cary, students discovered what format would lead to the educational materials being best used.  One clerk commented, “Hopefully, these materials will help us not only in the clerk’s office, but with city personnel in other areas as we respond to public requests.” 

The multimedia educational materials will also provide real-life scenarios to help show the public records law in practice.  The goal is to have a finished product available for distribution this summer.


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