PRSSA takes over D.C.

Mikenzie Frost

Public relations students across the country flocked to the nation’s capital last week for a national conference that brought together professionals and students alike.

The Northern Michigan University Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) took part in the PRSSA National Conference in Washington, D.C. October 10 — 14. PRSSA is a pre-professional organization for students interested in public relations that was founded in 1968 by its parent society, the Public Relations Society of America.

The 2014 National Conference had a theme of “Intersections: The Meeting Place of Communications and Culture.” American University along with the University of Maryland hosted students from all over the country to show how DC is a crossroads for all things PR.

  According to the PRSSA National Conference website, the annual conference is the largest congregation of public relations students in the country.

Students have the opportunity to network with professionals and other society members, which include more than 300 chapters and over 11,000 members worldwide. They are able to register for a variety of sessions tailored to their career goals and professional interests.

re-PRSSA“I think the society is extremely beneficial to make connections with professionals and other students,” Rachel Eckert, senior public relations major and NMU PRSSA vice president of Chapter and professional development, said. “These students will be our future colleagues so it’s good to meet them and make connections with them before we get into the real world.”

While attending the conference, members will also have a chance to hear from some of the top companies in the nation. These include corporations such as Dow and General Motors, and public relations agencies like Ketchum and Burson-Marsteller. In addition to getting a glimpse of career options, members also had the opportunity to hear from Amy Robach, news anchor from Good Morning America.

NMU’s Chapter has had members dating back to as early as 1997 who have been elected to serve on the PRSSA National Committee.

The first NMU Chapter member to serve on the National Committee was Tom Isaacson Ph.D., NMU alumnus and assistant professor in the communication and performance studies (CAPS) department. He served two years on the committee first as the Great Lakes regional director and then as the vice president of member services. Prior to teaching, Isaacson worked in public relations for the Chicago White Sox and Ferris State University before transitioning to an agency in Seattle, Wash., through a National Committee connection.

“I think if someone is involved in the National Committee it can change their career because your social network changes,” Isaacson said. “Your social network becomes the people who are some of the most involved public relations students at every school they were at.”

Brian Price, NMU alumnus, served as the national president last year and is serving again to help in the transition as immediate past president this year. After graduation, Price went on to work in Chicago as the assistant account executive at Edelman, the largest public relations firm in the world with more than 5,000 employees in 65 cities.

“NMU PRSSA gave me the support and resources I needed to find success in many ways,” Price said. “Being in the Chapter helped me realize many of the aspects of public relations that I enjoy and we’ve always had the personal and financial support from the CAPS Department. The leadership opportunities from PRSSA and the network that it provided me put me in a position to have a great first job after college.”

More recently, Jordan Paquet, a senior public relations major, was elected as the 2014-15 national vice president of member services. Paquet attributes his desire to run for National Committee to his leadership at the Chapter level.

“I knew that I could take it to another level by serving on the National Committee and I knew that by being a part of the National Committee, I could grow my network more,” Paquet said.

Despite being one of the smallest chapters in the country, the NMU Chapter sent one of the largest groups at the conference, including 16 general members, two national committee members and Jessica Thompson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the CAPS Department, as the supporting faculty member chaperone.

The group also won the Star Chapter Award this year at the conference for outstanding Chapter and professional development. To win this distinction, Chapters must meet eight of 10 requirements such as completing a community service project, attending National Conference and discussing public relations ethics in at least one Chapter meeting.

“The more members that we have that come to conference, that just expands their network,” Eckert said. “Living in the Upper Peninsula, our members don’t get access to agencies and firms and this experience.”

As described on the NMU PRSSA Facebook page, the purpose of the society is to cultivate a favorable and mutually advantageous relationship between students and professional public relations practitioners.

Isaacson said the national attention the NMU Chapter has gained has been beneficial for both the Chapter members and the university.

“The benefit our school and Chapter gets is that when we go to National Conference, our school becomes well known,” Isaacson said. “It’s not just National Committee involvement but it’s the number of students that we send to the conference every year.”