Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Bringing books and hearts together: On the Same Page Boston

Feixu Chen
Grace Bickerstaffe, a sophomore at Emerson College, donates books at the Tatte Bakery next to Emerson College on Monday, April 8, 2024. (Feixu Chen/Beacon Staff)

In 2016, Cathryn Edelstein proposed a distinctive initiative to the communication studies department: a program focused on nonprofit communication management that emphasizes hands-on experience. 

Today, the initiative, now called On the Same Page Boston (OTSPB), is part of the Nonprofit Fundraising Campaigns course that aims to enhance literacy and inclusivity through direct action.

“I started with an introductory course which also works with nonprofits … I think it’s important that students actually do it. They learn by doing,” said Edelstein, a senior executive-in-residence at Emerson. 

Edelstein said this hands-on experience guided its evolution from hosting gala events for nonprofits to organizing book donation campaigns that directly impact Boston’s schoolchildren.

Professor Cathryn Edelstein and her On the Same Page Boston Spring 2024 team during their campaign launch event on Thursday, March 21, 2024. (Photo courtesy of On the Same Page Boston)

The initiative has undergone several changes this semester, including a partnership with Dr. Kirsten Whitten’s Introduction to Public Relations class to increase on-campus awareness of OTSPB, which is currently lacking. 

“We found that many people within the college, not just students but also faculty and staff members, didn’t know much about the program,” Edelstein said. Dr. Whitten and her class decided that adding a pop-up campaign on campus would help spread the message of their work. 

“We just wanted to get the word out throughout the campus that this was happening because we thought it was important. Professor Edelstein agreed that awareness wasn’t there,” Whitten added.

A novel approach was adopted to enhance peer accountability and student engagement in a collaborative project. 

“We’ve introduced a collateral group responsible for peer review before any social posts are made, marking a significant shift from when I solely managed the evaluations,” Edelstein said. 

This change was part of a broader strategy to tailor responsibilities to student preferences and capabilities, focusing on leadership and team dynamics. 

“Assigning roles based on students’ expressed interests and experiences has drastically improved the quality of our work and reduced my need for direct oversight,” Edelstein said.

This year, OTSPB also partnered with Dr. William W. Henderson Inclusion School as part of its effort to provide diverse books to mirror its students’ varied abilities and backgrounds. This includes filtering books for students, visiting the school, and reading books to them. 

“This is the only inclusion school in the city of Boston. It is a fully inclusive school, meaning students of all abilities are mixed in with each other in the classroom. The kinds of books they need are different,” Edelstein said, highlighting the tailored nature of this year’s campaign. 

The initiative has always been about promoting representation in children’s literature, Edelstein said. 

“That’s really the bottom line,” Edelstein said. 

Dr. Kirsten Whitten with her Intro to Public Relations students on a pop-up campaign at the 2B Alley on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (Feixu Chen/Beacon Staff)

This commitment to diversity and representation in literature is at the heart of OTSPB’s mission. Most students in Whitten’s class have no prior public relations experience, and the OTSPB initiative benefits students by giving them hands-on experience with real-world PR issues, so they can better understand the basics of public relations professionals.

“The Introduction to PR class is phenomenal,” said Grace Bickerstaffe, a sophomore media art production major and public relations minor. 

Bickerstaffe lauds Whitten for her ability to guide students with no prior PR background toward leading successful campaigns. Other students echoed this sentiment, like Olivia Miller, a junior journalism major and nonprofit communication minor, who found participating in Edelstein’s class and OTSPB both educational and enriching. 

“It’s one thing to learn about organizing a campaign in theory, but it’s entirely different and more enriching to run one in practice,” Miller said, emphasizing the depth of practical experience gained through the initiative. 

Isabelle Montez, a junior public relations major and nonprofit communication minor, spoke about the impact of representation in books, particularly on people of color.

“Reading has been so fundamental for me, and being able to see that representation is just super exciting. Being a minority and seeing diversity and inclusion in the books we’re selecting for future generations is really my biggest takeaway,” Montez said. 

In organizing the campaign, Edelstein shared the importance of involving students in the process. 

“I had to teach them about how to do that,” Edelstein said. “So we do, for example, a day on researching evidence and then using that evidence to create an infographic.” 

As OTSPB members look forward to the possible readout at the Henderson School, Edelstein reflects on the initiative. 

“It feels good to see what my students learn, and it feels good to see the significant impact we have on the community.”

Emerson College students write notes to the Henderson School students, during a pop-up campaign organized by Dr. Kirsten Whitten’s Intro to PR class on Monday, April 8, 2024, at the 2B Alley. (Feixu Chen/Beacon Staff)
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About the Contributor
Feixu Chen
Feixu Chen, Staff Photographer
Feixu Chen (he/him) is a junior journalism major from Shanghai, China. He serves as a Staff Photographer at the Beacon. He loves traveling and listening to live music. When you can't reach him, there's a good chance he's on a plane heading somewhere.

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