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Unique student project helps SEK Humane Society 
Champ, an American bulldog looking for the right home, greets PSU students and teachers who helped make him a star in an SEK Humane Society calendar.

Unique student project helps SEK Humane Society 

A unique project by the Pittsburg State University Graphic Arts Club began as a way for students to give back to the community: help the financially struggling SEK Humane Society ramp up pet adoptions and raise money. 

It wound up being yet another hands-on learning opportunity. 

"The idea actually started last holiday break, when I read an article about a New York photographer doing pet portraits," said Andrea McConnaughey, an assistant professor in Graphics & Imaging Technology. "They were doing it to promote pet adoptions." 

The result was immediate: With professional photos, New York pet adoption rates were increasing. 

"People were falling in love with the animals," McConnaughey said. 

She discussed it with the GAC and Kelci Cooper at the SEK Humane Society, who was all for it. They held their first photo shoot in April, when the weather warmed, focusing their photography on each animal's unique personality. 

"It allowed digital media students to try their hand at photography and working with pets and posing, which comes with various challenges," McConnaughey said. "Others in the club who aren't photographers helped wrangle animals and serve as assistants." 

Then, the next step: Decide what to do with the photos. 

"The obvious answer was a calendar," McConnaughey said. 

But the cost of a professionally printed calendar — upwards of $2,000 — can be prohibitive. 

PSU alumni at Sun Graphics in Parsons donated the printing costs, and offered to involve the students in the printing process and plant tours, as well. 

They did a second photo shoot in the fall, ensuring they had a good mix of young and older animals, and a diverse group of cats and dogs. Then, the students took on the task of designing and laying out the calendar. 

"It was all done after hours – they received no class credit," McConnaughey said.  

Kasey Beeman, a junior in graphic design from Humboldt, Kansas, said she didn't mind the extra workload. As the project head, she gained experience in organizing people and all of the elements of the calendar. 

"We wanted to give back to the community, but we wanted to use our skill set to show what we're learning  and to learn from the project, as well," she said. "It's consumed most of my time between classes and work and all the other things I had to get done, but seeing it being printed, and then seeing Kelci's face when she saw it, gave me great joy." 

"It made me decide that this is definitely what I want to do for a career – to invest the time in something is worth it to see the customer's reaction and know you made a difference." 

Beeman said it also gave them an understanding of how graphic designers and photographers must make adjustments changes for printed media output. 

"When we got to see the process at the plant, we could see how if we make an error on one of the steps, what happens down the line," she said. 

Cooper said she wasn't surprised that PSU would volunteer — they do often at the shelter. 

"The majority of our volunteers and dog walkers are from PSU," she said. "A lot of them live in a dorm and aren't able to have animals, but who want to be able to interact with them." 

But this project, Cooper said, was above and beyond. 

"It's quite an undertaking, and it's also an incredible gift – the amount of time and effort they've put in," Cooper said. "We'll sell the calendars, and the benefits could be huge: 1,000 calendars, at $10 each. We continuously run in a deficit so fundraisers are what keep us going." 

The calendars will be unveiled to the public and on sale for the first time on Saturday at the shelter's benefit at Kansas Crossing Casino: a concert by the band Members Only.  

They'll also be sold at Santa Paws, a photo opportunity for pet owners to be held on Nov. 29 at Meadowbrook Mall. 

"This experience has shown students that what they will ultimately create in their careers can have a positive impact and they can make a difference," McConnaughey said.  

To learn more about the Graphics & Imaging Technologies program, visit http://www.pittstate.edu/department/graphics/

Unique student project helps SEK Humane Society 

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