This year’s professional development event was out of this world … literally. At around noon Wednesday Sept. 26, Capital was invaded by aliens.
After 2017’s zombie outbreak, this year’s team really made an impact with these “peaceful” extraterrestrials.
In the crisis scenario, students in public relations, journalism, and various other media departments were put to the test in an attempt to train for the real world: keeping up with social media, press releases, and breaking news stories.
In the story created for the event, aliens were spotted on campus late Tuesday night. Wednesday afternoon, they officially invaded campus saying that they were in search of iron because their planet had a depleting iron core, and needed to take it out of the blood of humans on campus. They targeted student athletes, specifically football players, who participated in the event in order to promote their homecoming game.
Members of Performing Arts to Serve Others (PATSO) were acting as aliens (dressed as hippies because they had seen images of Capital in the 1960s and wanted to blend in) and sending students to a tent where they could get their face painted to look pale due to low iron in order to participate in the event.
During the event, there was a negotiation involving the debate team where they decided to send the aliens to Baldwin Wallace University (since Capital’s homecoming football game is against their team) so that Capital could live in peace. There were also two press conferences with appearances by Sergeant Scott Kunkle from Public Safety and Athletic Director Roger Ingles.
The event was two students’ capstones. Chevy Hayslett and Tori Cox were approached by Dr. Foreman-Wernet to plan the event and coordinate with PRSSA and other student organizations.
“I think that the PR people got an opportunity to speak publicly in their press conferences. They also got to coordinate with Public Safety, with the Athletic Department … with the Chimes and other organizations, so I think that gave them a little bit of exposure without sending the campus into full-fledged panic,” Hayslett said. “It was a great experience and I hope that people get to do this in the future.”
“I do feel like it was a success,” Cox said. “I think it was very difficult to get students involved to act as victims because they didn’t know specifically what was happening.”
Cox went on to say that since students were worried about missing class and other obligations, that in the future students should be notified ahead of time so they can get excused from class and plan for the day.
Two members of Capital’s PRSSA, Ashley Swank and Elisabeth Friend, helped keep people updated on the public relations side through press conferences.
“I was very nervous through the whole thing,” Friend said. “It was very educational to … get this experience and it was very rushed, but I feel as though we got all of the information to do the press release.”
The students felt that it was a successful event with plenty of helpful moments.
“Crisis communications is huge in PR, and that’s what this is all about. We had to stay on our feet through the entire thing and we got plenty of great information and great lessons learned from live tweeting to interviews to staying on top of the situation to make sure people stayed calm,” Swank said.
PATSO’s own Daniel Robey, senior, played the part of Commander Gittens, leader of the aliens. “I absolutely loved just going around and being a complete weirdo,” he said. “One of the coolest parts of this experience was that all of my people adopted these fairly in depth characters for the two hours we were out.”
One of the actors took on the role of being a professor of human studies, and another ate half of a banana (including the peel) playing the part of the ditsy alien.
“Service is in our name, and it was pretty sweet being able to give back to our own school,” Robey said.
University Pastor Drew Tucker was one of the faculty members that was in on the event.
“I received an email about two weeks ago that said, ‘it’s not zombies this year, it’s aliens,’” he said. “I just started in November so I had no idea what this was about.”
After he found out what exactly was happening, he agreed wholeheartedly to be involved with the event.
“Anytime we can make learning real life skills fun, like sort of game-ifying learning, is really valuable for not just students, but for faculty and staff too,” he said. “It reminds us that we’re not always adults in a classic sense; that we can have fun and we can game around and we can still do valuable things … plus it gets us out of our normal routines and reminds us of the myriad of campus life that’s outside of the classroom, outside of the office.”
“I’m a sci-fi nerd, so I love that we do it,” Tucker said. “Especially sci-fi in relation to … aliens. I watched a lot of Stargate to get through grad school, like way too much Stargate … so I’m very much into sci-fi, it’s fun.”
“I just think it’s enjoyable to watch how some of the people I wouldn’t have expected to play along are really getting into it, like some of the athletes are really playing into it,” Blake Gipson, sophomore, said.
Students from Gahanna Lincoln High School attended the crisis event, as well.
“When I first read the article about last year’s [event], I was excited,” Bianca Barton, high school senior, said. “We are here to kind of observe and see if we can do it on a smaller scale at our school.”
“So far, it’s not what I expected,” she said. “But it is interesting, I can tell that things are going seamlessly.”
“I think it’s a very interesting idea,” Amelia Scheetz, high school senior, said. “I think it allows for journalists to be able to kind of practice for a crisis situation without it being a crisis.”