What’s a Flash Mob?

Following the Joplin tornado in 2011, Anna Plunkett and Michael Ligibel led the Drury Smart Mob that participated in ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Joined by dozens other Drury students, Anna and Michael went to Joplin to support a group of architecture students who had designed and were building a landscape feature in Cunningham Park as a tribute to the more than 100,000 volunteers who helped Joplin rebuild after the tornado. Anna and Michael spoke with Vikas Jagwani about their experience in Joplin.

Michael describes a Smart Mob as a “flash mob with a purpose, usually focused around disaster relief.” The Joplin Smart Mob, organized by Drury Professors Traci Sooter (Architecture) and Regina Waters (Communication) gathered 200 student to lay twelve thousand square feet of sod in less than an hour. They also helped clean a campground damaged by a tornado damaged. They returned to Joplin twice to help build and plant the OSSP Butterfly Garden and Overlook.

When the Smart Mob arrived in Joplin, it brought an infusion of welcome energy to the architecture students. Michael fondly recalls arriving in Joplin during the build week for the Butterfly Garden and Overlook. “It was a wonderful sight to see a huge number of red shirts flood off a bus and start building walls, sanding block for a bench design and helping with landscaping. The work site was filled with energetic, positive, and upbeat students.”

Anna explains that the Smart Mob works in teams, high-impact, high intensity projects. When a project arises, put out a call for volunteers on Facebook and Twitter in advance of the mob date. A couple of weeks prior to the event, they sign people up, collect paperwork, and give out Smart Mob t-shirts. Michael adds, “projects are high energy and done fast to keep true with the flash mob mentality of our organization.”

The work of the Joplin Smart Mob involved a great deal of collaboration, which Anna said made the work easier to accomplish while helping to build friendships. Both Anna and Michael plan to use the Smart Mob in their future work. It taught Anna the importance of doing volunteer work, which she plans to impart to her students as a future elementary education teacher. An architecture student, Michael learned that “the smallest actions can have a large impact” and sees a place for the Smart Mob mentality in the design process. “I would be thrilled if I could be able to provide communities with much needed spaces in a quick manner.”

Anna sees great benefit to Drury’s involvement in the Solar Decathlon. It educates people on sustainable living, and gives practical and applied experience to students from a variety of fields. Michael appreciates the way the competition gives designers and engineers opportunities to innovate and develop cutting edge designs that make good use of our natural resources.

Students help rebuild Joplin