By Meagan Lutey

Madonna University lit up the night with blue lights along with several Michigan landmarks to show support for autism awareness this April.  Madonna joined General Motors, DTE Energy, Motor City Casino and even the Mackinac Bridge in bringing the issue to “light.”

A group of Madonna students are directly responsible for both the school’s and the Mackinac Bridge’s involvement in the campaign.  They were also involved in encouraging General Motors to participate.

Scott Draper, Nadine McMullin, Michael Harhold and Jeremy Quinn, graduate students from Dr. Betty Jean Hebel’s Leadership and Marketing Management class, designed a marketing plan to help Corner Pieces, an autism awareness nonprofit based in Sault Ste. Marie, promote their cause.

“As part of the marketing effort, our team partnered with Corner Pieces,” says Draper, a Marketing student.  “Our marketing effort assisted him with raising awareness that Global Autism Awareness day exists and the campaign encouraged everyone to participate.  The original target was the Mackinac Bridge and it took off from there.”

Each team of students was free to choose whichever autism organization they wanted to work with.

“Once they told me what the goal was, the students set about writing a marketing plan for the organization,” says Hebel, Chair of the Marketing and Management Department.  “Corner Pieces asked for assistance in developing a campaign for a “Light it Blue” for the Mackinac Bridge.”

It was the students’ job to send out press releases and determine which radio stations needed to be contacted.

“Our role as a team was to provide a marketing plan to help guide his efforts,” says Draper.  “We did, however, use our contacts to encourage others to participate, and that resulted in the GM building, Fisher building and Madonna University participating.”

The students’ work with the organizations is part of the Pay it Forward program, which encourages service learning as part of the educational experience.  These activities are coordinated with the help of Olga Martinez and funded by the Learn and Serve America grant.

“Those who have heard about it are impressed Madonna students did this project; it’s kind of an outstanding project and it’s something that’s helping to increase community awareness,” says Hebel.

The Madonna community is proud of the efforts that the Leadership and Marketing Management class put forth and the show of support that students and faculty made by attending the Light it Blue event.

“This was a wonderful collaborative effort among faculty and students across the university, from the school of business graduate students and faculty, to the office of service learning and the college of education and the master’s program for Autism Spectrum Disorders,” says Karen Sanborn, Director of Marketing.

The students themselves gained a lot from their work as well.  “You never know what kind of impact you can make until you try,” says Draper.  “Take a chance and dive into it and don't be afraid to get involved; you might find that your reward may be more than just a grade.  For me, it was just that.”


Madonna supports autism awareness; joins blue light campaign