A group of Illinois State students are putting their PR skills to good use this week, challenging their peers to take part in some friendly commuter competition by carpooling, walking, or riding their bikes.

The weeklong Good to Go RSO Commuter Challenge kicks off Monday, pitting dozens of student organizations against each other to see who can rack up the most miles traveled using alternative forms of transportation. An online tracking system will count up calories burned and fuel saved, in a sort of kickoff event for WGLT’s communitywide Commuter Challenge that runs May 11-17.

Good to Go RSO Commuter Challenge prizes

The Good to Go RSO Commuter Challenge prizes.

The reigning RSO champion is Illinois State’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, giving it ownership of the traveling trophy—a miniature bicyclist made out of recycled cans. (The 2013 winner, which technically doesn’t have to be an RSO, will also get a $100 Visa gift card.)

PRSSA won for the second-straight year in 2012 by logging 629 miles, almost half of the 1,357 total sustainable miles recorded during the entire RSO Commuter Challenge. PRSSA members mostly walked, biked, and carpooled to rack up the big mileage, said PRSSA President Kaitie Ries. And since many are from the Chicagoland area, they save money and gas by carpooling back home with a friend.

Many students continue to use alternative methods of transportation such as carpooling, walking, or biking, even after the challenge ends, she added.

“It’s important not only to talk about the benefits of using alternative methods of transportation, but to put that in action and do our part to make our campus, local and global community better,” said Ries, a senior public relations major. “The challenge allows us to do all of that.”

At the helm of the Good to Go RSO Commuter Challenge are five School of Communication students doing an independent study on event planning under faculty supervisor Karla Huffman. So far they’ve signed up 26 student organizations for the 2013 challenge, and their biggest recruiting event doesn’t even happen until this week.

Amy Wallace

Senior PR major Amy Wallace.

For Amy Wallace, one of those five organizers, event planning is her favorite part of PR. The detail-oriented senior PR major knew that back in high school, when she found she had a knack for planning outings with her friends. The hard work pays off in moments like the one she experienced back in January, at an antiques show fundraiser for SOC that drew 1,500. She helped plan it, and took a step back as crowds lined up at the door.

“That’s when I think: I can do this,” says the Mokena native, who will start an internship at the Chicago Sport and Social Club after graduation in May.

Wallace and the other organizers have worked with Uptown Normal businesses to get gift cards and coupons that can be raffled off as a Good to Go recruitment tool.

Nicole Placek

Senior PR major Nicole Placek.

“It’s taking everything you learn in the classroom and putting it in real-world scenarios,” said Wallace.

Nicole Placek, another challenge organizer, said she was able to put her education to work writing press releases and talking to the media. All five tapped into their relationships with on-campus peers.

“We’re all very connected,” said Placek, a senior PR major.

Registration for the RSO Commuter Challenge is open on My.IllinoisState.edu until April 22. There will also be raffles throughout the week for students who participate in the challenge, in addition to the trophy and $100 gift card. And check out the RSO Commuter Challenge Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.