Student grants fund nonprofits

Jake Warner

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Every year the College of Communication and Information Sciences selects two to three students to receive the grant. The money comes through as a grant, but it is earned in the form of an internship with a local nonprofit, which otherwise could not afford to hire an intern.

Provided by the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation every year since 2008, the grant is not bestowed lightly. Last year there were two recipients, and in all previous years only one individual received the grant. This year three students have been given the opportunity to pursue internships through the program.

Hopeful students must be nominated by a faculty member before their applications are subsequently reviewed by a committee of faculty members. Students then face a final interview with Joseph Phelps, professor and chairman of advertising and public relations.

“Over the years, the program has played a tremendous role both in giving students unique and valuable experiences and in results for the nonprofits,” Phelps said. “The Munson Foundation really cares about conservation and water resources, and groups like the Cahaba River Society and Black Warrior Riverkeeper could use the help of a skilled intern in their 
PR departments.”

One such intern is Kristen Ellis, a senior majoring in public relations who works with Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a local nonprofit which identifies major pollution problems and works on cleaning them up while increasing public awareness, according to its website.

“I’m working with them for the summer doing a variety of PR-related functions,” Ellis said. “I’ve represented them at a farmers market, just raising awareness and encouraging people to get involved. I’ve written for press releases, social media and displays at events.”

Most recently, Ellis made an informational display board explaining everything Black Warrior Riverkeeper does, to be shared at various events. This includes the fall Phish concert at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, where the organization will be the official charity represented by Phish in its promotional efforts.

The grant is just one of the Munson Foundation’s ways of giving back to Alabama and the Southeast region where, Phelps said, it has its roots. This symbiotic relationship between the foundation, the University and local nonprofits has and will continue to make an impact in the local community.