It all started when I was searching for any and every way to take an introductory computer science course off campus because I had heard rumour that Spelman College has the hardest STEM courses in the entire Atlanta University Center. I reached out to Dr. Kinnis Gosha to inquire about the possibility of enrolling in a course of his to substitute my computer science requirement. While he told me that he was not teaching an introductory course, there was something I could do for him. He noticed in the signature of my email that I was a Junior Celebrity Publicist at the time for Reinchild Public Relations and asked if I could possibly be in charge of social media marketing and public relations for his personal brand. Eventually, his personal brand transformed into the Morehouse College Culturally Relevant Computing Lab. I was responsible for managing the social media accounts and writing and pitching press releases to media outlets such as Esquire, Black Men’s Dossier and HQ Magazine.
As my sophomore year rolled by, I switched gears from public relations to creative writing and research, where I served as the lead Story Development Coordinator for a software we were developing called BullyShutdown. Initially, BullyShutdown, which was created during the fall semester of the 2014-2015 academic school year, was tailored to be a program from which millennials can learn the various consequences of being a bully or a bystander. As a character from the limited third party point of view, the child that you select will guide you through their day and you will be able to make decisions that will ultimately affect the outcome of the scenario, negative or positive. In order to create said scenarios, the story development and research team worked collaboratively to generate perfectly realistic characters and situations to which each player can relate to. First and foremost, a nonbiased survey was distributed to teachers and faculty members from various lower grade schools to determine the top twenty reasons as to why children get bullied.
We, then, took the top eight assorted bullying scenario topics based upon prominence to develop the trial stories and script formatting which included clothing, grooming, perceived low family wealth, low academics, being overweight and being a tattle tale. After creating these stories, research advisor Dr. Kinnis Gosha would edit, polish and scan for errors. Throughout the story development process, the research team uncovered some interesting information about the effect that a bystander really holds in regards to the bully-victim relationship. This information was later incorporated into the scripts in order to develop more realistic, relatable and effective plot lines.
Lastly, a larger team of story developers was constructed, which enabled the team to generate a more efficient assembly line flow through Google Docs from developing the stories in their early draft stage to polishing them to perfection for recording purposes. The final stage is recording students and taking photographs of them to successfully create embodied conversational agents (ECAs), also known as virtual human beings, for BullyShutdown. Currently, six stories have already been completed, four of which are featured on the website for elementary school students. BullyShutdown hopes to expand to develop stories for college students, Greek letter organizations, the workplace and more.
During the spring semester of my sophomore year, I presented my research at the ADMI Symposium on Computing at Minority Institutions at Georgia Institute of Technology. I presented my BullyShutdown Reseach Poster and was awarded with a $50 stipend for simply showing up. This experience sharpened my expertise in technology and science, which allows my skills as a public relations professional to become more competitive.