Last year, the Anderson University Department of Communications Arts established a chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), a pre-professional organization that offers students the opportunity to learn about their field, refine their skills, and network with public relations professionals. In its first year, the 21 members of the chapter were able to fully utilize the benefits of membership by hosting guest speakers, attending a regional conference, and hosting a PRSA (the professional society) luncheon.
The members of PRSSA met every other Wednesday, and the meetings usually included a guest speaker with expertise in a particular area of the public relations field. Last semester students were visited by the marketing manager of the Indianapolis Indians, an event planner, and several guest speakers from Borshoff, a public relations agency based in Indianapolis.
[Photo: Members of Anderson University’s PRSSA Chapter network with public relations professionals at the April PRSA Hoosier luncheon. Photo credit: Courtney Hoyle.]
“For our meetings, we tried to bring in real-world professionals in a variety of areas to come and speak about their jobs, what they do, and how they got there,” said Alyssa Applegate, a 2012 AU grad and 2011-12 chapter president. “We wanted to get a variety of people in so members can hear from all sides of the public relations world, discover what specifically they would like to do with their degree, and network with the people who could help their potential career.”
This past February members of the AU PRSSA chapter traveled to Purdue University to hear professional advice on the current PR job market. PRSSA chapters from Purdue, Butler, Indiana Wesleyan University, and AU, among others, attended the conference.
The conference feature two keynote speakers. The first was Ron Culp, director of the Graduate Program for Public Relations and Advertising at DePaul University. Culp discussed how to enter the job field assertively and effectively, and how to market oneself as a product to future employers. The second speaker was Sonja Popp-Stahly, a communications manager at Eli Lilly and Company. Popp-Stahly encouraged students to begin developing the hard-working persona that hiring managers are searching for.
Junior communication arts major and 2012-13 chapter president Kimberly Werline benefitted from the networking opportunities at the conference. “PRSSA makes it easier for students to connect with professionals and discover what kinds of jobs are available,” said Werline. “Nearly all the guest speakers have offered some type of internship program.”
In April, members from the AU PRSSA chapter attended a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) luncheon in Indianapolis. PRSA is the professional society that public relations students can join upon graduation, and it offers many similar networking and growth opportunities as the student society. Each month, the Indiana chapter hosts a luncheon where PRSA members in the central Indiana area celebrate recent chapter accomplishments. Eight PRSSA members attended and sold baked goods at the luncheon as a fundraiser for the AU chapter.
“It was great to be able to spend time with professionals who are currently doing jobs that we hope to do in the future,” said Courtney Hoyle, a junior marketing major and the chapter’s historian and fundraising officer. “I was able to have lunch with the vice president of one of the most prestigious PR firms in Indianapolis, a networking opportunity I know I would not have had without my involvement in PRSSA.”
Officers for the next academic year have been elected, and the group is already setting goals and planning ways to further grow the new chapter. The officers hope to increase membership and make fundraising a priority so future members can attend national conferences.
Regardless of what’s in store for the organization, the benefits of membership will continue to aid students. “Public relations is a competitive field,” said Werline. “I feel like my association with PRSSA will help me discover what employers are looking for in the hiring process.”
— Eva Christine McKnight is a senior from Batesville, Ind., majoring in communication arts. McKnight is a manager with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications. Kristen Schaap, a senior from Chicago, Ill., majoring in communication arts, contributed to this story.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.