The University of Indianapolis and Ball State University came together to host the Public Relations Student Society of America National Convention Oct. 21-25 at the Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. A participant from Ball State said this event gave students across the nation the opportunity to network in the public relations field as well as gain job opportunities and learn skills to help them further their careers and education.
Each year, the conference takes place in a different city, and students in the state can place a bid to host the event. This year, Ball State University contacted UIndy to partner up and place their 52-page bid together. Once they were appointed as hosts, the two schools planned the event over the course of a year and a half. Students had to find speakers, sponsors and locations and plan the events that would occur throughout the conference.
UIndy graduate communication student Natalie Wichern was the logistics director of the event. She is also president of the university’s PRSSA chapter. Wichern did not start in the applied public relations program until she was a junior but said that the late start actually helped her.
“I was a little late in terms of entry compared to most students,” Wichern said. “I felt that it helped me actually because I had brought more leadership and knowledge and networking to the table. Most students that enter their freshman or sophomore year get engaged right away, so I was kind of a late bloomer in that sense.”
As the logistics director, Wichern had to handle many different tasks such as coordinating speakers and sponsors and planning programs and events. She also assisted in managing volunteers who helped her with a variety of tasks throughout the conference. One of the largest events Wichern assisted in planning was the opening night social.
“On the first night, we had an opening night social. So we had to plan the food, the decorations and the theme, which was the Indy 500,” Wichern said. “Which was a lot of fun because we had a lot of race car stuff. We reached out to the IMS [Indianapolis Motor Speedway] to try to get some of their extra materials, and that worked out well. Overall, it was great for the students to engage with professionals and get a deeper understanding of the public relations area and different areas within that.”
Wichern also had help from her UIndy partner Reagan VanCleave who served as the program director. VanCleave did much of the planning of the themes and food choices for the events. She directed and planned most of the opening night social, the farewell breakfast and the awards ceremony dinner.
Ball State senior communication major Katie Ronzio also worked directly with the conference after gaining experience from her time on BSU’s public relations firm, Cardinal Communication. For this event, Ronzio served as the communication coordinator, working to help everyone engage in the conference and providing information to those involved.
Approximately 1,000 students attended the conference and participated in its many events. One of those was the career tours, running throughout the days of the convention, during which students visited different agencies in Indianapolis. Professionals also offered resume critiques and a career development exhibition, where agencies brought in human resource professionals to talk to students about prospective job opportunities.
Ronzio said she felt that the conference boosted her professional relationships and gave her more connections and job opportunities going forward.
“The PRSSA convention was taking place [at] the same time the PRSA National Conference was, so the professional society was there at the same time,” Ronzio said. “We got a chance to interact with them at different mixers. You could talk to the professionals that were critiquing after the session, so I followed up with several professionals that I met and hope to continue those professional relationships.”
Both Wichern and Ronzio agreed that the event boosted their professional knowledge and their networking for future employment opportunities.