PRSSA students gain PR savvy,
network with peers and pros
By Catherine Harper
In the field of public relations, professionals agree with the adage, “the more experience, the better.” According to Charles Kaufman, internship coordinator and professor of public relations campaigns at Texas State, becoming involved in student organizations and internships is the best way to gather experience for a career.
“Student organizations and internships provide more experience and opportunities to sharpen your skills,” Kaufman says. “Anything you can do to enhance those skills is another step to your professional development.”
For public relations students, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) helps members take a step beyond the classroom into the world of public relations. As a professional student organization in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, PRSSA provides an opportunity for valuable networking and experience among peers and professionals.
PRSSA — a student chapter of a national organization, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) — was founded at Texas State in 1968, 20 years after the national chapter was founded. With over 40 years of history guiding students on the path to success, the chapter at Texas State is still going strong. According to Lizzie Laster, president of PRSSA, the organization is active in providing insight to students in public relations.
“PRSSA prepares students for the PR profession in a hands-on way,” Laster says. “We use the professional experiences of our speakers to engage and educate our members, and provide members with the opportunity to network with their peers all across the country, and a lot of PR is about who you know and building contacts.”
Kaufman says another great benefit of membership is being eligible to apply to scholarships and competitions, like the prestigious Bateman Competition. Students who wish to participate in the Bateman Competition take the Public Relations Campaigns course during the spring semester, following competition rules set by PRSA, and start work on the competition in November.
“Typically very committed individuals with a competitive fire tend to want to get involved in this competition,” Kaufman says.
As with many campus professional organizations, events and guest speakers are also a huge draw for getting students involved in PRSSA. According to Bruce Smith, director of the School of Journalism of Mass Communication and a professor of public relations, the largest turnouts are for high-profile speakers or appearances by Texas State alumni, who give students a broader perspective of the real-world profession. He adds that students in any field can benefit from the amount of opportunity offered by joining a professional organization on campus.
“These organizations are a great way for students to learn outside the classroom,” Smith says. “It provides networking opportunities with guest speakers as well as fellowship with other members. There’s a big social aspect, and it’s a great way to get to know other people.”
Officers, including President Lizzie Laster, oversee the productivity of PRSSA meetings and manage operations including scheduling events and coordinating guest speakers. With advisors Dara Quackenbush and Frank Walsh, professors of public relations at Texas State, the meetings are guided in a professional and sociable environment. For Laster, getting involved goes far beyond resume-building and builds personal achievement.
“You learn the importance of leadership, delegating and trust. You learn a lot about yourself from being involved,” Laster says. “I learn something new about PR, or a new perspective, with each person that I meet.”
Last weekend, members attended the Texas Chapters Executive Board Retreat, which aimed to decide how the student chapters could be more effective. These retreats, as well as conferences across the state and country, help members connect with their chapters and with those at other universities.
As an organization in mass communications, PRSSA holds up to the standard of nationally recognized organizations at Texas State — alongside the National Society of Professional Journalists, the American Advertising Federation, and many more.