Musings of a PR Professional


I am… but not…

I have been meaning to share with you my endeavors from last semester, but life kept getting in the way. Shame on me, but at least we are here now.

As a Communication Studies student at Clemson University, one is required to take COMM 495, a capstone course, during his or her senior year. Each semester there are about three or four different courses open, each with a different topic. My choice for this past semester was Public Discourse and Human Identity. The topic was right up my alley, sounded exciting (re: pushing boundaries), and I was to be working under my favorite professor in the department, Dr. Shannon Holland, an undeniable perk.

We had no rules. No guidelines. But we did have money.

We were given $1,000 from donor Maryalice Mayberry with a single simple instruction: Figure out an engaging way to facilitate difficult discussions about identity on Clemson’s campus. Long story short (and I mean long), we came up with the phrase “I am… but not…” with which we would invite students and faculty to anonymously fill in the blanks regarding their own identities. Ex: I am blonde but not dumb, I am shy but not voiceless etc.

We also loved the concept of “airing out your dirty laundry” of The Clothesline Project, so we decided to incorporate this into our project as well by taking the participants responses and writing them out on shirts. Ultimately these shirts would be hung on a clothesline display (designed by us, constructed by Dr. Holland’s partner out of the goodness of his heart) ┬áin the library for everyone to see.

To wrap up our project we decided to host a symposium where students and faculty could come together to engage in these identity discussions, modeled after The World Cafe. Our goal was to have at least one person walk away at the end of our project thinking a little bit differently about who they are and who they come in contact with every day.

All makes perfect sense, right? No kinks at all? Yeah, we didn’t think so at the time either. But man, did we pull it off.

One of our assignments for the course was to write a series of six journal entires about almost anything relating to the project. My journals were at times insightful about our purpose, and at others they had a much more logistical focus. Either way, I think they paint a great picture of what myself and my classmates worked to create from January to the end of April during my last semester at Clemson. I will be posting these journal entries (with some modifications to make them more blog-friendly) here over the next few weeks. It is important to me to share with as many people as possible what we accomplished and how great of an experience it was.