By Kasy Long
Oct 27, 2022
For Jennifer Mullen, communication is all about public service. That’s why she’s sharing a passion for philanthropy and service in her classes as senior instructor of communication in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana State University.
Mullen is a dreamer – and she dreams of collaborating with her students to improve the Terre Haute community. In the past, Sycamores have assisted charity organizations and participated in community service, but Mullen felt her students could be doing more.
“It’s important for me to get students in the community. I want them to be philanthropic and care about giving back to their communities,” she explained.
Mullen works with her students to build relationships and connections with Terre Haute businesses. This helps them create professional portfolios for internships and job opportunities.
This focus on service should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Mullen. She is passionate about serving her community, as demonstrated by her involvement with Keep Terre Haute Beautiful—a project to pick up trash around the city.
In recent years, Mullen has collaborated with other community members to clean up Terre Haute’s Twelve Points area, which at one time had many shops and businesses and was almost a small city unto itself. The Twelve Points Revitalization project is working to rebuild the area into its former glory. Businesses have opened, new streetlights and sidewalks have been installed, and there are plans to open a branch of the Vigo County Public Library in the area.
Day by day, Twelve Points is growing stronger – and it’s all because of support from community members who have believed in the project’s vision.
“Community members have stuck with us since the very beginning,” Mullen said. “The project preserves the past. We’re blessed to work with amazing people and meet with people every day.”
In the classroom, Mullen teaches courses on public relations, marketing in business, and hybrid courses focusing on public speaking, group dynamics and relationships. Her class sessions consist of collaborative learning spaces. Her students learn various problem-solving strategies and work in teams to analyze real-world scenarios.
“Everyone has a voice [in my class],” Mullen explained. Her classes form focus groups, and her students engage with the material. Even if they struggle, Mullen doesn’t want her students to give up. “Failure is an opportunity to learn.”
Many of Mullen’s class projects require her students to expand on their professional development skills in outreach programs. This includes putting together a virtual 5k for Terre Haute’s Chances and Services for Youth [CASY] and coordinating previous fundraising events for the Swope Art Museum. Her students have also applied their public relations knowledge to assist with publicity and communications for various programs for the Twelve Points area, including Taste of Twelve Points.
“It’s a collaborative learning experience and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship for the students and the businesses,” said Mullen.
Together, Sycamore students are learning how to promote events while also working to make a difference in their communities. Mullen knows these are learning experiences her students will always remember when they reflect on their Indiana State education.
Mullen supports students and their passion for philanthropy directly on Indiana State’s campus, as well. She serves as a faculty advisor for Lemon Club, a branch of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Students frequently organize lemonade stands around Indiana State’s campus to raise awareness for childhood cancer and to fundraise money for childhood cancer research.
The professor uses these projects to assist students with finding internship opportunities. Recognizing her students’ skills, she helps them build connections and create impressive portfolios of press releases, media reels, and data presentations documenting how their communications work increased media coverage for events.
“As students, it can be hard to get out of that mindset that this might just be an assignment for class, but my goal is for my students not to think of community projects as an extra assignment,” Mullen remarked. “It’s about creating a portfolio they can be proud of and showcase to potential employers. Students can look back and see everything they have accomplished.”
Mullen joins a family of faculty at Indiana State that cares about their students’ success. She blends her passions for communication and community work to build relationships with her students and their networking. She provides advice, and students in the Department of Communication know how to find opportunities because of guidance from faculty like Mullen.
“Opportunities aren’t going to fall into your lap,” Mullen advises. “Be diligent about building relationships. Look alive on campus and talk to your faculty. You have a voice, so use it. We’re here for you.”
Making a difference begins with passion and commitment. Luckily, Mullen has the right outlook not only to lend a helping hand but to foster a love for philanthropy in her students. Together, they find success that impacts communities both near and far from Indiana State’s campus. Because a caring community begins with BLUE!