From Coursework to Real-World Impact
By Brian Hand
A junior on the track and field team, Desire Brown obviously has a connection and passion for UNC Asheville Athletics, but this spring she had the opportunity to apply that affinity and her studies in mass communication to build out a fundraising campaign from start to finish. The project was part of Associate Professor Sonya DiPalma’s inaugural Social Media & Fundraising course. Brown was one of three student-athletes enrolled in the class, and was joined by 16 students equally committed to their goal—raising $175,000 for the Bulldog Challenge, in collaboration with University Advancement.
“I think everyone in this class took on these tasks as if they were a part of the athletic teams,” Brown said. “They see how important it is to get everything through the Bulldog Challenge.”
Together, the teams of students, each assigned to one of the 16 NCAA Division I Bulldog teams, developed and implemented a strategic communications plan, from custom videos to social media posts.
“The wonderful part of this course for us in partnering with the Bulldog Challenge, the Athletic Department, Alumni Engagement and Advancement is that we have created a realtime social media lab,” DiPalma said. “This is something many universities do not have. This is a tremendous opportunity that we can afford our students. This experience of working with real-time social media analytics, creating live posts and dynamic and distinctive content is going to be a real plus for their portfolios on the other side of graduation.”
The unique collaboration proved to be a huge success with over $211,000 raised for UNC Asheville Athletics as part of the Sixth Annual Bulldog Challenge in 2019. In addition, there were a record-breaking number of donors in this year’s Bulldog Challenge, with more than 750. The annual event has surpassed $500,000 raised over the course of the six years since it has been instituted.
The UNC Asheville track and field/cross country program took home the trophy for the 2019 Bulldog Challenge for the most donors (145), while the baseball program brought home the trophy for the most money raised overall with over $96,000 donated.
For Brown, the win is about much more than team support or classroom grades. The class has more than reminded her at the end of the day what makes UNC Asheville special, particularly when it comes to being a part of a class that truly is a unique collaboration between athletics, academics, alumni engagement office, University Advancement, and more.
To Brown it is simple—“We are all Bulldogs.”
To learn more about the Bulldog Challenge and mark your calendar for next March, visit unca.edu/bulldogchallenge.