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Center for Engagement and Community Development

Engagement Incentive Grant Awardee Natalie Pennington

MyRelevate as a Mechanism for Adaptive and Accessible Relationship Education

Assistant professor of communications studies, Natalie Pennington, is working alongside Amber Vennum, associate professor of couples and family therapy, on a project to make relationship education accessible and interesting to young adults. To do this, Pennington and Vennum designed the project; Developing Connections between Communities and Researchers: MyRelevate as a Mechanism for Adaptive and Accessible Relationship Education.

Relevate was created by Vennum as a way of distributing crucial research on interpersonal relationships through technology and community outreach. Relevate has brought together faculty and students across three departments - Family & Marriage Therapy, Communication Studies, and Computer Science - with the potential for more engagement on campus, in the community and across the nation as it grows.

Pennington says that Relevate is currently in the process of developing a new website and mobile app to reach those beyond the K-State and Manhattan community.

“This will allow anybody who studies relationships to join and be able to share their research,” said Pennington.

The new website and app will have a Pinterest-like layout, which was designed specifically with young adults in mind. The website will allow researchers to upload content like infographics or blog posts. This information will then be accessible to anyone interested in developing or maintaining their own relationships.

Relevate’s primary target for relationship education is individuals who are considered young adults or young professionals, making the university an ideal location for engagement once the website and the app are launched.

In addition to its online presence, Relevate hosts events in partnership with local businesses to educate the public on relationships and interpersonal communication.

Relevate has hosted “Drinks and Thinks” with Arrow Coffee, “Wings and Swings” at the Houston Street Ballroom and their most recent event, “Amazing Race Manhattan.”

In honor of International Women’s Friendship Month in September, Relevate hosted “Amazing Race Manhattan,” which was a scavenger hunt across the city of Manhattan. Each stop along the way had a metaphor about friendships and relationships.

“We want to find ways to make it fun, but also bring in the research to make it educational,” said Pennington. Later this semester, Relevate will participate in Science Week on campus with a Facebook Live event on November 9 at 1:30 p.m. with leading scholars in the field sharing about public scholarship.

Pennington said that the Engagement Incentive Grant they received for this project has been extremely helpful when trying to gain support from those in the community.

“Being able to say the university supports us and the school wants to see us do this, and grow our organization, has been huge,” said Pennington.