California State University, Long Beach
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Moss, Students Having A BLAST Assisting Local Students, Others

Published: July 2, 2012

Kirran Moss doesn’t mess around. Students in her 337 Communication Studies class are told up front they will have to participate to succeed—not just in the class, but in life as well.

“My philosophy is that if they really want to succeed in this world they have to get out and learn what it takes to do something from the ground up,” said Moss, an Australian native who moved to the United States to compete as a shot putter/hammer thrower on CSULB’s track and field team in the 1990s. “The idea is that this isn’t a theory class, it’s about applying fundamental organizational and interpersonal communicative principles and using them positively to give back to the local community. It’s about learning quintessential skills from a marketing standpoint, from a public relations standpoint, from a community engagement standpoint. All of these things are encompassed in the class.”

When she was handed the reins of the class a few years back, it was a course on conference management that was really seen as a way to assure there were enough bodies available to assist when there was an event to put on. Moss changed that in a hurry.

“I walk in and I give them a hardcore skill set of the Harvard business input and output approach to PR and marketing and then I let them run wild,” she said, noting that it is now a professional event planning class. “It’s a must-do class. I lecture on developing and delivering a top-notch pitch, demographic analysis, and teach them how to develop, implement, and lead market and community based events that are successful and often profitable too.

“I want them to take an idea and groom it with research, logic and thought about needs for our community,” she added. “Each event is built this way, from the ground up. If they fail, I’m happy with that failure as long as they’ve gone through the sequence of what equates to and what equals failure. Then they know what led to the failure and what should have been done better along the way. Hopefully, they won’t make the same errors again in their professional careers.”

Every year her students pitch project ideas to the class, which then selects between five and six to work on, all of which have a fundraising component—some raise money, some raise awareness, some both. As expected, there is the initial grousing from students when a real commitment to participate is required.

“Yes, to some degree they do grumble,” said Moss, whose collegiate athletic accomplishments include winning a pair of Big West titles at CSULB where she completed her B.A. in Communication Studies. She then moved on to Cal State Los Angeles for her M.A. and while there was the NCAA Division II champion in the shot put and played basketball. “They get grumpy at me because they may not want to participate, but I tell them, ‘If I have to be at all these events outside of class time and I’ve got two kids, a husband, and a profession I’m trying to uphold, then you need to come or at least contribute by selling tickets.’”

This year her students collaborated, planned and hosted events to raise money for Charity water, the CSULB Department of Communication Studies Scholarship Fund, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Shoestring City Ranch, Susan G. Komen for the Cure (formerly known as The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation), TOMs Shoes, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Millers Children’s Hospital, and Long Beach BLAST, which stands for Better Learning After School Today. BLAST is the most successful annual event put on by Moss’s students and has an immediate impact on the local community.

“When I came across BLAST, I was doing my doctorate in the joint UC Irvine/CSULB program and was looking at data for after school care programs in Long Beach and I realized that their work was making a difference,” she said. “Here was this organization that was having an impact in our own back yard. Coincidentally at that time, I was offered the event-planning class and I said, ‘We’ll do events, but a goal must be to give back to the community.’ All of them needed to be based on raising money, awareness or both.

“BLAST’s founder (Jean Egan) was kind enough to partner with my class so we could accomplish my goal for the course. The relationship has had a profound impact on students and myself. They are a terrific organization with dedicated people who serve the beautiful children that benefit from the program.”

Kirran Moss
Kirran Moss

BLAST events put on by Moss and her students have raised just under $200,000 in seven years, with $60,000 coming last fall alone. The annual event has gone from being held at Long Beach’s historic Ebell Club, to a wine-and-cheese affair that draws up to 250 individuals to the penthouse law offices of Keesal, Young and Logan, located in the 14-story Union Bank of California office tower in Long Beach.

“Choosing to reach beyond the four walls of her classroom, Dr. Moss has provided her students with an invaluable learning experience and provided BLAST with a series of very successful special events,” said Egan, an attorney in Long Beach who founded BLAST in 2000. “These events increase awareness of BLAST’s programs and services in the Long Beach community. They also raise much needed funds that allow us to keep the doors open, even in tough economic times such as those we face today. In addition to fundraising events, Dr. Moss and her students also plan events that provide participating BLAST students with enriching experiences that they would be unlikely to have otherwise.”

To date, BLAST has served more than 6,000 youth in grades K-12 through approximately 40 after- and in-school programs in the greater Long Beach area.

“BLAST supports low-income, high-risk, housing project kids,” said Moss. “The money we raise goes directly to funding the program. BLAST gets college kids who want to be mentors, who can meet with them once a week, help them with homework and just talk to the kids. All the data seems to indicate they are having a positive impact. That is true not only for the quantitative measures like test scores but the qualitative results indicate a positive result with the children.

“Let me tell you who these kids are,” she continued. “These kids live in Long Beach and have never even been to the beach. That’s who these kids are. Many kind professors here at CSULB use the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), an amazing resource, and have replaced assessment items by offering their students the chance to mentor for BLAST. CSULB is a special campus and we care about our community. The CCE offers many opportunities for faculty to involve their students in the local community. Students learn and the community benefits. It’s a win-win.”

According to Moss, the annual BLAST event has become so popular that individuals who attend now put it on their calendar ahead of time, one of the reasons being that it gives participants the opportunity to mingle with enthusiastic CSULB students while rasing money for a great and worthwhile cause.

“I tell the students that people attending this event are going to hang around and bid on that extra item if you engage them. You’re Comm majors!” said Moss. “I tell them it’s a fabulous networking opportunity. They get to interface with the who’s who of Long Beach, so they should capitalize on it and treat it like a job interview. Ask them if they have internships that are available; ask them if they have positions available. These are people that they may never get the opportunity to meet aside from in that context. So there are all these different layers of benefits for my students to participate in these kinds of events.”