Business students win humanitarian public service announcement contest

Posted on
Smart Compassion

Winning entries can be viewed at

KINGSTON, R.I., June 11, 2012 — Before Koray Özpolat became an assistant business professor at the University of Rhode Island, he worked for the United Nations in Jordan serving refugee camps in the Near East. What he saw there inspired him to continually look for ways to improve the living conditions of people in crisis.

While teaching a popular operations and supply chain management course, he seized upon an opportunity to educate business students about humanitarian logistics.

“I wanted to raise awareness of disaster relief,” Özpolat said, referring to how the topics he was teaching, such as logistics and transportation, are vital in disaster relief.

He offered the students in two sections of the course an optional project: the chance to enter the 7th annual public service announcement (PSA) contest, PSAid. Students could create a PSA encouraging smart compassion by informing the public that monetary donations to proven relief organizations are the smart way to help people affected by emergencies overseas. The contest is sponsored by the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

About 70 percent of the class, or 40 students, chose to participate, and four of them won in the print category. Two entries submitted by a team of undergraduate students Ryan Pincince of Narragansett, Richard Kalhofer of North Kingstown, Jill-Ann Hewins of Coventry, and Kelsey Finegan of Wakefield took second- and third-prize.

“We have brilliant students at URI,” said Özpolat, who is from Turkey. “They worked hard and smart collecting logistical data and merging that logistical data with art and design, all relative to what they are learning.”

Entries were judged based on overall impact, originality, memorable content, delivery, and clear and concise messages. The second-prize winning entry by the URI students depicted an ever shrinking dollar bill when an item donation, such as bottled water, was given versus a cash or credit donation, which showed the dollar bill intact. The third-place winner showed a bottle of water with a price tag of $71.27, the real cost of a case of water bottles after handling, shipping and storage.

“This year’s contestants met the challenge with compelling and clever entries,” said CIDI Director Juanita M. Riling. “Explaining to the public what smart compassion involves can be a challenge, but the winners clearly articulate the difference between good intentions and maximizing public generosity to help people affected by disasters.”

The winners have the chance to have their PSA aired nationally on NFL games, among other shows, and in the Congressional Quarterly. The PSAs will be nationally distributed to major TV networks, cable channels, and magazine and newspaper outlets.

This achievement has already brought some visibility to the award-winning team of URI students in the world of humanitarian logistics. Riling recently approached Özpolat to collaborate with the winning students to design a material donations calculator to be housed on their website serving humanitarian relief agencies. The calculator would show how much it would cost to ship a commodity to a specific destination versus a monetary donation.

“It will be another opportunity to improve humanitarian relief efforts across the globe and also get URI students to the national stage,” said Özpolat who plans to work with the URI Computer Engineering Department to develop the online calculator. “This will be an interdisciplinary endeavor as well as an experiential learning project for students.”