By Ashleigh Kathryn
What does Rick and Morty’s “szechuan sauce ” and the University of Florida’s Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter have in common?
Answer: A professional development opportunity delivered by Jano Cabrera, former McDonald’s SVP of U.S. comms, global media and PR. Cabrera was one of many public relations professionals who visited UF this past school year, including industry thought leaders from Weber Shandwick CEO Andy Polanski to the Culpwrit himself, Ron Culp.
UF’s College of Journalism and Communications and the PRSSA Chapter find supplemental opportunities for students to connect with the public relations industry beyond the classroom. Universities that invest in these visiting professionals provide students with engaging opportunities to learn about industry insights or trends. Connecting with these professionals also allows students to have a competitive edge when entering the workforce.
UF junior, Carolyn Lok shared, “With all of the pressure and stress to have a job secured immediately after graduation, understanding how to navigate the professional world shouldn’t be at the top of a college student’s list of worries. I think it’s vital for professional development to begin early in a student’s college career so they’re well-equipped to tackle any obstacles that are thrown at them once they do enter the professional world.”
Each professional brings their own experiences and personality, which offers diverse and engaging perspectives on how the public relations industry is evolving.
Lok recalled her favorite visitor experience this year, “One of my favorite meetings with PRSSA was when Rob Flaherty came to speak to students about how to think big about their future in communications. He literally gave away large props that coincided with each step of his professional process, including a real $100 bill. It was probably the most engaged meeting I’ve probably attended.”
And this is just how the students benefit. Communication programs become more competitive by offering resources such as professionals-in-residence and visiting public relations professionals. Pat Ford, a professional-in-residence and Burson-Marsteller legend, brought in more than 10 speakers this year for his crisis communications and corporate reputation courses.
Nicholas Goebel, a former teaching assistant for Pat Ford, shared, “Visiting professionals for Pat Ford’s class opened my eyes to all the different sectors of public relations. It was a class focused on crisis, but diversified by industry. Those professionals all have journeyed different paths and all been successful. They broadened my view.”
Brands, agencies and companies establish recognition with students who could be potential employees or customers through essentially a form of corporate social responsibility.
Adriênne Bolden, a graduate student and Program Coordinator for the College of Business Doctorate of Business Administration & MBA Programs at Florida International University explained, “It is a benefit to the students because it gives them a “peek behind the curtain” and allows students to ask questions they may not feel comfortable asking during an interview for employment.”
Bolden continued, “It’s a benefit to the company because it provides tangible exposure to future employees and a physical representation of their brand. Many talks are open to the public as well, so this extends the company’s reach and solidifies their commitment to the community they serve.”
Visiting professionals have a tremendous impact on students, the educational programs they attend and the brands they work with. Thank you to those professionals who keep giving back and donating their time. And if your school hasn’t started doing this yet, start connecting now and set up these opportunities for this next year!
Ashleigh Kathryn is a ProMasters graduate student at the University of Florida. She is the 2019-2020 PRSSA Immediate Past President and is a member of the IPR Street Team. Follow her on Twitter @Ashleigh_K_W.