Shorewood visit brings UW–Madison strategic communications project to life

While strolling in Atwater Park along Lake Michigan and exploring the downtown central business district, University of Wisconsin–Madison journalism students experienced life in the village of Shorewood firsthand during a site visit.  

These students partnered with Shorewood during the Fall 2023 semester to create informational and persuasive campaign messages. Touring the community in person on Oct. 24, 2023 provides the students with greater insight into how their work can meet Shorewood’s communication needs. 

“Personally, I feel like Shorewood is best experienced for oneself rather than described,” Assistant Village Manager Chris Anderson said. “I hope the essence of our community, one that is walkable, friendly, and ‘at the edge of the city and the heart of everything’ was felt while they toured the village.”  

University of Wisconsin–Madison journalism students experienced life in the village of Shorewood firsthand during a site visit to inform communications projects. Photo credit: Abigail Becker

Shorewood is partnering with UniverCity Alliance, which is a network of interdisciplinary leaders across UW–Madison who are inspired to support local governments of all sizes by leveraging university resources, from 2022 through 2025. Through this partnership, the village connected with Evjue Centennial Professor Doug McLeod and his Journalism 455: Creative Campaign Messages class.  

“UniverCity Alliance is always excited to make community site visits happen because they facilitate two-way learning between the students and local government partners,” UCA Managing Director Gavin Luter said. “Visiting Shorewood made the project come to life.”  

‘New and exciting challenge’ 

While Shorewood uses a variety of communication tools to connect with the community, officials want to make sure they’re staying at the forefront of the ever-changing communications field. The students were tasked with reviewing the village’s current strategies and metrics and understanding if new platforms can be leveraged.  

“My students get hands-on learning working with real clients, and in turn, we bring out knowledge and skills to Wisconsin communities: the epitome of the Wisconsin Idea,” McLeod said.  

Shorewood is partnering with UniverCity Alliance from 2022 through 2025. Photo credit: Abigail Becker.

During the site visit, McLeod and his students met with village staff for a two-hour conversation about Shorewood’s current communications practices, a digital tour of the website, an overview of the village, and a question-and-answer session that will inform the students’ work.  

“I thought the questions students asked about our internal and external audiences, the goals of the project, and associated deliverables were thoughtful and helped us reflect even beyond what we initially provided in our 2022 proposal [to work with UniverCity],” Anderson said. 

Luter emphasized the process of clarifying community issues and challenge is part of the benefit that UniverCity brings to Wisconsin local governments. 

Following the discussion, the group toured scenic and notable areas in Shorewood. Starting at Atwater Park and Beach, the students took in the sweeping expanse of Lake Michigan and a public art piece created by Jaume Plensa. Then, the group walked along Oakland Avenue in the central business district, saw Shorewood High School, and explored Hubbard Park Lodge and Beer Garden along the bank of the Milwaukee River. 

Visiting these local sites gave the students a greater understanding of how Shorewood residents interact within their community, which informed their communications campaigns.  

“When working with our community partners, it is imperative that students meet those partners in person and experience life in their communities,” McLeod said.  

Students walk up steps leading to the beach in Atwater Park. Photo credit: Abigail Becker.

The students ultimately presented several sets of ideas for new logos, social media posts, promotional videos and flyers, and merchandise designs. With these materials, the students aimed to provide tools to Shorewood that could help the village build community pride, distinguish it from surrounding localities, and communicate with current residents. 

“The students have really benefited from working on this really challenging project that took us in a new direction from where we typically go during the course,” McLeod said. 

For the students, the opportunities to work with a community partner and conduct a site visit were first-time experiences that will not only inform their project but also be beneficial as the students prepare to graduate and seek employment.  

“It’s cool especially for us as seniors when we’re asked in job interviews, I can say that I’ve worked with real clients,” Sofia de la Vega said.  

Olivia Moffitt, a senior majoring in journalism, said the in-person visit provided a different perspective to the assignment, and she appreciated the opportunity to work with Shorewood for several weeks.  

“Having this hands-on experience is against the norm of what we usually do,” said Moffitt, noting the added benefit of feeling more comfortable following up with village staff throughout the project after meeting them on site. “It was definitely worth it to come to Shorewood in person.”  

—Abigail Becker