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Department of Journalism's Neighborhood-Based Energy-Efficiency Project Is Looking for the "Biggest Loser" University News
For release: July 21, 2009

For press information, contact Simone Notter Wilson (901) 678-4164

In partnership with the Cooper Young Development Corporation and the Evergreen Historic District Association, David Arant, chair of the Department of Journalism, received a Strengthening Communities Initiatives Grant for his proposal, The Smallest User, a neighborhood-based energy-efficiency project. The Strengthening Communities program is managed and administered by the School for Urban Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Memphis and supported by the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis (CFGM), United Way of the Mid-South (UWMS), and the University of Memphis Research Foundation (UMRF). The journalism department's $18,000 grant is a  fully funded capacity building grant.

The project is outlined as an energy efficiency competition between two distinct Memphis neighborhoods, looking at which of the target neighborhoods can become the most energy-efficient within one year. Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW) will be a project participant to establish a baseline for utility usage for each neighborhood. Energy use by residents in each neighborhood will be evaluated against that historical baseline during the nine-month period of the project. Vacant and non-residential properties will be excluded from the analysis.

Students in Rick Fischer's public relations research class will assess residents' current knowledge, attitudes and behavior regarding energy use. That research will serve as a basis for developing a customized marketing plan for each neighborhood. Beena White's public relations campaigns class will develop and implement the energy conservation campaigns.

To build momentum and create awareness throughout the campaign, the project team will provide monthly energy tips as well as hold quarterly status meetings, intended to highlight the current progress of each neighborhood as well as identify those residents within the neighborhood that have made the biggest improvements during the previous quarter. Local energy experts will be available to provide additional information, encouragement and help foster new ideas that neighborhood residents can use in the future.

Journalism students and faculty will then conduct an assessment to determine how effective the campaign was in changing residents' knowledge, attitudes and behaviors regarding energy conservation.


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