Hi, I’m Des Burns and my project is about using a website and proposal to start a Trap-Neuter-Return program for the feral cats on campus
Today I am going to tell you about the opportunity I saw for this project, it’s objectives, the constraints I faced, my audience and rhetorical strategies, the results of the project, and the next steps I plan to take
There are a lot of cats that live on and around campus- you may have encountered them I you’ve walked around quiet parts of campus early in the morning. But overall, feral cats are people-shy and it’s no surprise if you’ve never realized there were cats on campus or that they could cause any problems in the communityThe biggest problem of feral cats is that their population continues to grow and before you know it, the colony is too big to handle. Talking with faculty from our vet school, I found out that, even though they know there are feral cats on NC State’s main campus, no one is responsible for neutering the campus cats. So, I saw an opportunity to help the cats and the university at the same time. (Expand a little)
There were 3 main objectives in completing this project:The first was to do research to show that TNR works, that it is more beneficial than detrimental to a community, and that it can be implemented successfully in a university settingThe second objective was to build a website that could be used to spread awareness and education about TNR in general and the project at NC State in particularThe final objective was to write and submit a proposal in order to gain permission from the university to actually implement my plan for a TNR program on campus.
When approaching this project, I encountered a few constraints. The first constraint was time. There never seems to be enough timeThe second constraint was trying to address multiple audiences. The website and the proposal were targeted to two different sets of people and had two different purposes.The last and arguably largest constraint was my personal background. My love of animals, and cats in particular, made it difficult to effectively address an audience that may not feel the same as I do about animals.
Defining the audience for the website was more difficult than I originally anticipated.The audience would not just be people like myself, who already like animals and want to help them. Those people are definitely part of it, but after reworking the focus of the website, I realized that the larger part of the audience would be the NC State community and people who want to start a spay/neuter program on their own campuses.So, the website had to appeal to three different types of people.
For the proposal, defining the audience was difficult because I did not know who would be responsible for granting permission to start a TNR program. Was is the Chancellor? Someone in administration? The vet school?Through some research and inquiries, I eventually found out that the campus grounds manager would handle the approval and so he became the audience for my proposal.However, because I do not know the grounds manager personally and do not know if he would be sympathetic towards feral cats, my audience had to become skeptics of TNR in general, in order to be effective.
When developing the content for the website I conducted a short audience analysis by looking at what other campus cat programs, like the Stanford Cat Network, included on their websites.Then I relied on two main rhetorical methods- Ethos and pathos- to ensure the content of the website was effective:Ethos and pathos were the most important rhetorical strategies for the website and I used these two strategies, with words and pictures, to convey several things:
Why people should care about the issue
Why people should help
And why people should listen to me
Throughout the multiple drafts of this proposal, I was asked again and again, “Why should we care” and it was hard for me to answer that question without it becoming about the cats and my proposal was just full of pathos. So, I had to change the strategy I used for the proposal and do my best to focus on LOGOS. To that end:I included lots of research explaining why TNR is effective and is good for the communityI talked about other college campuses that have implemented successful TNR programs andI illustrated that I have some community support for the projectBut the most important and the most difficult part was showing that TNR will help the university… NOT just the cats.
When building the website, I used Wordpress as my content management system.Before finalizing the site, I conducted a short usability test to make sure the site worked the way I intended. Users were asked to perform tasks to test the technical functions, like leaving comments or sending an email, and tasks to test the design of the site. Were they able to find certain pieces of information, was it easy to read, was it easy to navigate?But the most important part of the usability test was making sure users could clearly define the purpose of the website.After testing, I made some changes to the site and then used my social media skills to bring awareness to the site.The final “above the fold” product looks like this:
The font is bigger, I took out distracting quote, there is a resource section, etc.And to answer a question you may be asking ‘if these are feral cats, why is there a ball of yarn?’Well, from a design perspective, something needed to be in that space. I thought a ball of yarn would be more appealing than a dead mouse.
Within the next few weeks I hope to be able to submit my proposal to the grounds manager.Once it has been approved, I will begin to implement my plan, with the help of my volunteersAnd I will continue to spread awareness and education about the benefits of TNR and update the blog on my website with my progress as I continue to go through this process.
As a review:I saw an opportunity to start a Trap Neuter Return program on campus because there was a lack of awareness about feral cats around the university and as a result of that deficit, there was a lack of action.I created a website dedicated to tracking the progress of my experience and to educate people interested in starting TNR programs on their own college campuses.I also wrote a proposal to the campus grounds manager that outlines the benefits of TNR and my plan to start a program at our university.I plan to follow through with this project so I can help NC State’s feral cat population and help the NC State community as well.
TNR for campus feral catsA Website & proposalDesiree Burns | Spring 2012
What you’ll hear• Opportunity• Objectives• Constraints• Audience• Rhetorical Strategies• Results• Next Steps
Opportunity• Lots of cats• No TNR• Help cats• Help university
objectives• Research• Education and awareness• Plan for action
constraints• Time• Multiple audiences• Personal background