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IMC program partners with the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation


Often described as a builder of bridges between China and the rest of the world, Pearl S. Buck is a literary legend who penned over seventy books. This summer, capstone students in the Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media have a unique opportunity to preserve history and enhance tourism in the state by helping to promote Buck’s birthplace in Hillsboro, West Virginia.

Based on an initiative from the WVU President’s Office, the IMC program has partnered with the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation to assist with its marketing communications needs.

Sixteen graduate students will develop a comprehensive integrated marketing communications campaign to build awareness, support fundraising activities and promote the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace as a regional and national tourist destination. Students will have the opportunity to interact with Foundation leadership throughout the course.

Born in West Virginia to missionary parents, Pearl S. Buck was the first American woman to win both the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature. Growing up in China as a missionary, she was the first western author to depict Chinese life and her books emphasized human rights, women’s rights and the dignity and worth of the individual.

The summer 2016 section of IMC 636 will be taught by the College of Media’s Assistant Director of Online Programs Matthew Cummings.

“This special nonprofit client will offer a unique set of challenges to our graduate students,” said Cummings. “With a limited marketing budget, students will need to find creative ways to brand and position the Foundation and leverage primarily earned and owned media to reach potential visitors, donors and volunteers.”

Since being chartered in 1968, the Foundation has maintained Buck’s birthplace as a living gateway to new thoughts and dreams and ways of life. The Birthplace Museum opened to the public in 1974 – the year after Buck passed away – for tours and has since been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kirk Judd, treasurer of the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation, hopes that with the help of WVU’s IMC students, the Foundation will be able to build awareness and funding to help with the maintenance of the house, while also elevating Buck in the literary consciousness—where she belongs—and adding new programming and features to the Birthplace.

“What I hope is to get some ideas, some fresh ideas, some young ideas on how we can market and promote ourselves better so we get Pearl’s story out there,” said Judd. “It’s a great story, and it’s a wonderful place. I hope this class brings us some plans and ideas we can put into motion.”

The collaboration between the University and the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation is part of a larger mission of outreach and scholarship that began in 2014 when WVU, West Virginia Wesleyan College and the Foundation announced that the three institutions would form a partnership to preserve and disseminated the legacy of Pearl S. Buck. The first step was for the WVU Libraries to house Buck’s priceless collection of literary manuscripts.

As an extension of the initial collaboration, selected IMC students will also have an opportunity to share their campaign directly with the Foundation’s Board of Directors at the conclusion of the course.

“This partnership aligns with WVU’s land-grant mission, and we are grateful to be contributing to the Foundation’s success in Pocahontas County,” said Chad Mezera, Director of Online Programs at the College of Media. “We are excited that our students are able to engage with a project that will help preserve the legacy of such an amazing woman and enhance tourism in the state of West Virginia.”

To learn more about the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace visit:



CONTACT: Christa Currey, Reed College of Media

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