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Beth Avery Foster and Courtney Childers #ChooseToChallenge

Zoom photo of advertising Campaigns course

March was Women’s History Month – All month ADPR highlighted the women in ADPR who #ChooseToChallenge. Two faculty members from the School of Advertising and Public Relations are doing that by fighting the opioid epidemic.

Under the direction of UT President Randy Boyd, the University of Tennessee System is working to combat the TN opioid crisis. In August 2019, UT held its first Summit for Opioid Addiction and Response (SOAR).

To diminish opioid fatalities, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded faculty members at UT a grant to strengthen opioid prevention resources in rural Appalachian communities, to understand community needs, and to implement a response plan. The grant team included the Director of ADPR, Beth Avery Foster, professors from the College of Nursing, and Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Jenny Crowley. The consortium created a detailed strategic plan to address opioid prevention and recovery services.

Avery Foster targeted the 10 highest at-risk Appalachian counties through social media and community outreach. Her work included focus groups with local law enforcement, first responders, social workers, and other key groups, which allowed them to better understand the unique challenges their communities face in the fight against opioid addiction. Dr. Jenny Crowley hosted training sessions on the use of the overdose medication, Narcan. Crowley coordinated with K-12 schools across rural Tennessee to host prevention trainings with teachers.

“It was a privilege to work with a talented group from across the University that shared passion in our fight against the opioid epidemic,” Avery Foster said. “It is important to me to use my research stream in public health crisis to address issues that matter to our broader community as we serve at a land grant institution, and the fight against opioid abuse could not be a more important one.”

Avery Foster was connected with College of Nursing professor Jennifer Tourville, leader of the UTK Faculty Opioid Workgroup. Tourville was charged by President Boyd to work with Knox County on the creation of the Recovery High Program. The program needed branding and strategic communications, so it was a perfect opportunity to involve ADPR students in those efforts. Dr. Courtney Childers immediately chose the program for her campaigns’ class client.

In the summer of 2020, Courtney Childers used the team’s work to provide a service-learning and community outreach component to her Advertising Campaigns students. Over eight weeks, the students were briefed on the issue, met with different stakeholders that served as the client, and developed a campaign that would help create awareness for the first recovery high school in Knox County.

Few recovery high schools exist across the country. These schools are fundamental to the post treatment recovery plan for students with addiction or mental health needs as they combine academics with therapy and also provide those in recovery with a safe peer group to connect with. The Advertising Campaigns class named this first of its kind school in Knox County, Elevate, as a way to honor the notion of elevating one’s recovery by enrolling in the new school. Service-learning opportunities with clients like Elevate, provide needed hands-on experience for undergraduate students.

In addition to naming the school, the students provided marketing collateral by designing a logo, creating a branding toolkit, providing storyboards for video executions, planning special events, and gathering media contacts for Elevate. The finalized advertising campaign was pitched to members of the grant team, Knox County Schools (KCS) liaison, Daphne Odom, and UT System President, Randy Boyd in July. KCS will be using most of the student work to launch Elevate for its opening in August 2021.

Childers said, “I think that the students learned just as much as the client during this campaign. I’ll never forget the first day of the class when the client showed a short documentary of a recovery high school in Texas which profiled the lives of two students that gained a new life from their treatment program. Many of the advertising students immediately connected and organically shared some of the same hardships they had faced with family and friends. From day one in this class, students were invested in producing high quality work for this campaign.”

Are you or a fellow Vol in distress? If so, call 865-HELP.

Substance abuse is a treatable and preventable disease. Call the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789 for immediate help for anyone suffering from a substance abuse disorder.