Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pregnancy Aid Center Article

Here's an article about the practicum work I did with the Pregnancy Aid Center


CDIA Practicum Gives Students Real-World Experience Sep 30
Written by: education 9/30/2009 3:55 AM
At CDIA, they believe it is essential to provide students with hands-on experience with real-world clients. They also believe that it is important to make a positive impact in the community. These ideologies come together to create our Practicum program philosophy and here's one example:

The Pregnancy Aid Center (PAC), is not new to the non-profit world. Established in 1974, PAC provides pre- and post- natal care for low-income mothers. Their website was created by an intern over 10 years ago, and remained static with basic information about services offered. Mary Jelacic, executive director of PAC, talks about the effect of an underdeveloped site. “Grantors who looked at our website were less likely to consider us…unless they actually took time to do a site visit. Prospective patients did not get their FAQs answered unless they called the Center”. Ms. Jelacic’s observations are supported by a 2009 report from the Philanthropy News Digest, which noted “highly satisfied nonprofit website visitors are 49% more likely to donate money…[and] 38% more likely to volunteer”, while 30% “chose not to give online because of poor website functionality.”
PAC partnered with CDIA for a Practicum web redesign and photo project. The first client meeting involved the web team, photographer and Mary, and from this meeting, a plan developed to create photos and a site that was warm and welcoming for PAC constituents. Mary handed creative direction to the CDIA team, and took her role as “a great partner: astute, focused, responsive, caring and compassionate.” The site had few requirements for the redesign: accessible to a low-literacy group; translated in both Spanish and English; extendable to additional languages.
Pol Klein ( of the web team notes, “The challenge of an open-ended requirement is latching on to a direction. When you can go in any direction, which way do you face?” The direction was one that steered away from text-heavy content, and used visuals to increase the ease of navigation and comprehension. Pol offers an insight about the redesign process: “We chose a package of technologies and approaches that would play well on older computers. With this direction in mind, we established three visual designs; one with a photo collage navigation on the home page and two with photo series on the home page. The Pregnancy Aid Center chose the photo collage navigation design and we got on to building. To ensure that additional languages could be added and that team members could work on the site at the same time (given the relatively short schedule), we chose to build the site with XHTML, CSS, and server side included templates and a folder structure that clearly separated language specific content for language additions. A key part of building the site was user and browser testing. CDIA organized user interface testing with volunteers the whole class could observe over a video link. It was rather effective as users identified aspects of the design that worked well and that didn’t for them; not always in ways we expected. With user feedback and browser test results in, we made modifications, finalized the content of the site and published a beta version for the Pregnancy Aid Center to review. Finally with their feedback, we made final modifications, special pages for errors, and plugged in video content all for a final delivery.”
Katharine Hauschka ( worked as photographer on the project; an important role in a redesign the depended on visuals. Following the initial meeting, Katharine set up shop at the clinic, working to capture a welcoming environment, images that would work both as stand-alones and as part of the website. Some of her biggest challenges came in the nature of the clinic—not only was she documenting clinical experiences (private in nature), but also was navigating model releases with clients who often did not speak English. However, with the support of the clinic and Mary, she was able to successfully document PAC, and provide the web team with the appropriate images. Additionally, Katharine utilized CDIA video and sound equipment to create a multimedia piece also featured on the site.
The results are easily measured - soon after the site launch,, PAC was awarded a $300,000 grant for their programs. Says Mary, “The new site serves as an education tool for consumers, donors and volunteers. After reading the information on the website clients know what services they qualify for as well as which documents are needed to enroll in Medicaid and WIC, etc. Volunteers learn about opportunities to help others at PAC. Donors learn about services that they are supporting. Everyone who has looked at the site has been amazed at the wealth of information it provides and the beautiful photos and informative video. Teens love the interactive features and the bold colors. Funders have made positive comments about our new website.”
For CDIA students, the experience also had a tremendous effect. In addition to the stunning portfolio piece, Katharine comments about the intrinsic value of Practicum: “It was absolutely inspiring working with Mary and the staff members at the PAC as each of them wakes up every day and goes to work to help these people in need who wouldn't have a place to go for help without the PAC. To be able to go and photograph these people at work and to help them in their cause was an inspiration! I'd happily help them out again with anything in the future.”
For more information about CDIA’s Practicum Program, visit and contact Kate McNamee,

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