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Lessons in Mercy: Digital Communication Students Lend Talent, Expertise


Part of what separates Georgian Court from other universities is the campus community’s strong commitment to giving back. While the university itself operates around the Mercy core values of service, integrity, respect, justice, and compassion, it is the daily efforts of the faculty, students, and even alumni who bring these lessons of Mercy into the classroom that truly sets Georgian Court apart.

Among these faculty members is Assistant Professor of Digital Communication Dr. Gina Marcello, who in 2014 found a new way to incorporate lessons of mercy into her syllabus for her capstone class, Digital Communications Professional Practice. The course is one of several taught in the GCU School of Business and Digital Media.

Prior to the start of the course, GCU’s own Diane Szubrowski, RSM, ’68, donor relations volunteer, and alumna Mary Ann VandenHeede Richards ’63 reached out to Dr. Marcello and informed her of dSquared, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded by Karen and Stephan Dushnick after an automobile accident claimed the lives of their two sons Michael and Stephan. The organization aims to save lives by providing free and safe rides home for young adults at the Jersey Shore and in the surrounding area.

After learning more about the organization, Dr. Marcello was able to design a course that would allow digital communication students to take all of the skills they learned throughout their undergraduate careers and apply them in order to assist organizations like dSquared to develop a marking campaign. Several students also produced a video to help tell the story of dSquared and promote its services.

“I am extremely proud of all of the students,” said Dr. Marcello. “Their success within the class was an outstanding example of how the Mercy core values can be applied in the classroom. They worked as groups to conduct research, implement marketing strategies, and even raise money, all while contributing to a great cause.”

Mercy Meets Learning Opportunity

While assisting dSquared, Ashley Flach ’15 was one student who went above and beyond. Ashley, who worked mainly on the organization’s social media pages, explained that while she found the experience to be quite beneficial, it was the time spent working with the Dushnick family that turned out to be the most rewarding.

“Working with dSquared and the Dushnick family was the most valuable experience I had during my undergraduate coursework,” added Ashley. “Participating in the course Professional Practice gave our group the confidence to pursue our ideas; however, the Dushnicks really made our ideas a reality! Not only did the project teach us how to develop a meaningful and dynamic campaign, but through this process, the Dushnick family taught us greater lessons in service, perseverance, and faith.”

More than a year after working with GCU, dSquared continues its efforts to keep young adults safe on area roads.

“The GCU students were amazing,” commented Karen Dushnick. “They were intelligent, respectful, and inspiring. They helped us with our social media and never lost patience with me about the proper use of the hashtag.

“They set up information tables, handed out info to GCU students, developed flyers and wristbands, and made videos,” she said. “The GCU students were phenomenal.”

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.