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Teaching Community Engaged Learning

About COMM 376
Branding, Culture & Politics (Fall 2021)

In summer 2021, three first-year students worked with me on a research project that involved interviewing local businesses in Meadville on what defines the 'local' and 'community' from an entrepreneurial perspective. The research findings helped shape the COMM 376 course which I co-taught in fall 2021 with community partner Jason Bakus, owner of the Pampered Palate Cafe and Bistro in Meadville, PA.

Allegheny College students from the COMM 376 course worked in teams, during fall 2021, to develop an Integrated Marketing & Branding proposal for the Meadville Pampered Palate. They pitched their ideas to Mr. Bakus on how aspects of the business can be developed to uniquely integrate what customers value as 'authentic' to ‘local’ and ‘community’ values, using the business's brand identity. In the process, positioning Pampered Palate as an integral part of the Meadville place brand, produces equivalence by creating a place-bound heritage and rootedness for the cafe, while equally associating Meadville with a fast-growing home-grown chain (the cafe just opened its third outlet in Erie, PA).

Learning About Small Town Community Values

The research done by students in surveying other local businesses and their customers, as well as the clientele and employees at the Pampered Palate, revealed that for both businesses and the people they serve in this community, being community-minded means showing you care when you are hurting the most, by giving and supporting one another through the distress. Individuals also expressed their true gratitude for local businesses like the Pampered Palate that try to source as much of what they use on their menu and the packaging products from local suppliers in the region. And while big franchises like the McDonald's across the street, or Dunkin' Donuts, will always be the cheaper and preferred option for the wallet-conscious, more people are starting to become more self-aware of supporting local businesses and keeping the money they spend, circulating in the Meadville economy.

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