Academics and Research / Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

DMS links students with nonprofits

Businesses increasingly rely on Web sites and digital media to communicate with their clientele. But nonprofits often struggle to afford the services of a Web designer or marketing agency to help them capitalize on the medium.

A program of the Digital Media Studies (DMS) department solves this problem by linking University of Denver students in need of real-world design experience with Colorado nonprofits that wish to establish or expand their digital presence.

The Digital Media Outreach Center (DMOC) coordinates student involvement in pro bono projects for nonprofits, including Web development, multimedia presentations, videos and audio production.

Former DU Associate Professor Jeff Rutenbeck formed the center in 2002 after his students worked with nonprofits in his Internet Communications seminar.

“I quickly became aware of need for nonprofits to have access to Internet professionals,” Rutenbeck says. 

He also realized that his students needed experience recruiting, managing, and supporting clients.

“Our goal is to provide nonprofits with a great service and to give our students good experience,” says Rutenbeck. 

Through support of a $10,000 Public Good Grant, the center hired two graduate assistants to run the program. For the 2006–07 academic year, another $5,000 Public Good Grant will enable the center to hire students to work on more complex projects that can’t be completed by volunteers.

Working with clients via the center is a requirement for most digital media courses at DU. While professors help with technical questions, all client communication is handled by the students.

In one class, center volunteers built a promotional Web site for the “Art for AIDS” event, a fundraiser for the Colorado AIDS Project.  

“The DMOC saved us a tremendous amount of money by providing us with quality work at no cost,” says Danielle Corriveau, director of public relations for the Colorado AIDS Project. 

The center serves 13-15 clients each quarter. The DMOC coordinators provide ongoing support and Web site maintenance after students have moved on, and students are encouraged to train clients to update their sites themselves.

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