Skip to main content

The Reed College of Media and College of Creative Arts will merge to form the new WVU College of Creative Arts and Media as of July 1, 2024. Get details.

Public relations students travel to France, support National D-Day Memorial

A group of students in Normandy France

Reed College of Media students in Adjunct Instructor Chuck Harman’s capstone class have been developing campaigns for their client, the National D-Day Memorial. During spring break, they traveled to France to see first-hand the places allied soldiers landed during D-Day in World War II.

“It was a remarkable experience to see the soil where we had fought almost 80 years ago,” said Parker Roberts, a member of the West Virginia Army National Guard and a cadet in the WVU Army ROTC program. “This capstone course was very intriguing to me with my military background. The most memorable thing was walking on both Omaha and Utah Beaches. It gave me chills to know that I stepped foot where thousands of brave heroes sacrificed their lives.”

Roberts was one of four veteran students in the class, alongside Cameron Thompson, Thomas Williams and Halle Farmer. Additionally, Raymond Lapoint and Nicole Mitlehner were able to honor their fathers who served in the 82nd Airborne division in 1989-1992 and 1999-2004, respectively. The students visited the La Fiere Memorial Park, where the 82nd Airborne played a vital role during World War II.

Raymond Lapoint and Nicole Mitlehner at the La Fiere Memorial Park

“Getting to visit the place where that same 82nd Airborne had held off invading forces decades prior made me feel more connected to that legacy than ever,” said Mitlehner. “I really hope to bring these emotional connections of meaning, sacrifice and connection into the stories I tell with my campaign.”

The students in Harman’s capstone course are divided into three separate “agencies” – Lien Agency, Gallant Alliance and Public Eye Collective. Each agency is working independently on a campaign to help the client target a younger audience to visit the memorial. The course meets weekly in Morgantown throughout the semester and culminates with the teams pitching their campaigns to the National D-Day Memorial leadership team, who chooses a winner.

Harman (BSJ, 1981; MSJ, 1984) approached the National D-Day Memorial because of his own family’s military history. His father served in the Army during WWII.

“We are all humbled by the ‘Greatest Generation,’ when nearly every man and woman in America sacrificed in some way,” said Harman. “Seeing my students have such great respect for their efforts and enthusiasm for the future gave me great hope for the ‘next greatest generation.’”

Harman has taught this capstone course since 2011 and is passionate about giving his students a taste of working in a real agency before they graduate. In the past, his students have worked with international clients and traveled abroad to Ireland, Italy, Brazil, Belgium and the United Kingdom to pitch their campaigns.

“These students will have a distinct advantage over other entry-level candidates by working with a real client, having had weekly interaction with their mentor, experiencing another culture and pitching a campaign,” said Harman. “My three class mentors bring a unique perspective to the class and a rare opportunity to learn from a seasoned professional.”

Chad Hyett (BSJ, 2001), executive vice president at MCS Healthcare Public Relations; Brandon Thomas (BSJ, 2010), executive vice president at Freuds Communications; and Maddie Ernst (BSJ, 2019), senior marketing consultant at UC Health were the mentors this semester.

“To have the opportunity to work with a professional mentor has truly allowed me to see my work produced for this class from another perspective,” said Emma Schwartzmiller. “Brandon Thomas has incredible professional experience that he can share with us. I’ve learned so much not only from Brandon but from the other mentors as well. They have all given presentations to our class about different aspects of their careers. Whether that be pitching or strategies and tactics, they’ve allowed us to better prepare ourselves for the workforce. Along with the expertise of Professor Harman, I feel more than capable in my abilities to make an impact and succeed in my future.”