ADPR Students Take School Trip to PRSA Conference in Nashville
When the Public Relations Society of America announced its 2023 International Conference (ICON) would be in Nashville, several students at the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations had the chance to attend. PRSA makes it a point to ensure students are welcome at ICON so they can have the opportunity to learn from and network with industry professionals, and the Tombras School arranged to facilitate the trip for students who wanted to go.
For senior Courtney Brown, who grew up near Nashville in Spring Hill, Tennessee, this was an ideal chance to speak with potential employers face-to-face before she graduates in December.
“I think it puts you a step ahead to attend this conference if you’re really serious about your career, and I am. It’s important to take advantage of these opportunities,” said Brown, who attended the conference last year, as well.
She said ICON didn’t disappoint and she was able to really personalize the experience by choosing which sessions she wanted to attend and what she wanted to do with her time there. The value of networking became readily apparent during the trip when she made a contact at the conference that led to enjoying a private tour of a firm in Nashville.
Junior Drue Hamlet said checking out sessions was a highlight for her, as some were tailored specifically for students and entry-level professionals, such as a resume building and interviewing tips session she attended.
“The sessions in general were really diverse and there were so many different people to learn from and some of them were really helpful,” she said.
Hamlet is vice president of the Public Relations Student Society Association (PRSSA) Sammie Lynn Puett Chapter at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and she was also excited to meet other PRSSA students at the conference. One of her favorite sessions to attend was a panel of three PRSSA members, each from different academic institutions, answering questions about recruitment, fundraising, and more, that Hamlet plans to take back to her chapter with her.
It’s never too early to start exploring conferences such as this, both students said, and junior Sarah Fischer agreed. This was Fischer’s first conference and trip she attended since transferring to UT from Pellissippi State Community College, and she was blown away by how kind and helpful everyone at the conference was.
“I would really recommend students go…It’s really cool to hear from other people in different fields of PR, and they were all so nice and so willing to help you out with networking,” she said, noting she came away with a lot of new connections she hopes to leverage.
All three students said this conference trip, which was led by Assistant Professor of Practice Joe Stabb, was just another example of how UT and the Tombras School has supported them in their academic endeavors and prepared them for their future careers.
“There are so many professors you can just go to who want to help you and they take that time. I don’t know if that’s typical with other places, but I’m always going to think UT is the best at it. I’m so grateful for the people who work here and the classes I’ve had, because it prepared me 100 percent; four years ago I was not this person. My time at UT has taught me a ton, everything I needed,” Brown said, noting the support has been especially appreciated as she is a first-generation college student.
Hamlet, who came to UT from New Jersey, said the welcoming atmosphere at the Tombras School helped her feel less overwhelmed about being in an entirely new place where she knew no one. When she decided to switch her major to public relations, she talked with Beth Foster, director of the Tombras School, and they’ve maintained a relationship ever since—it’s been comforting to Hamlet to know the instructors at her school are truly invested in her success.
And for Fischer, the support she’s had at the Tombras School is particularly meaningful. Trips such as this one to Nashville, and the New York trip she’ll be attending with the school in the spring, had seemed out of reach for her. Fischer uses a motorized wheelchair and needs certain accommodations when she travels, so she initially assumed such trips were not going to be part of her academic journey.
“Dr. Stabb is one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to the conference. He told my mom, ‘If Sarah ever wants to go somewhere, I want to fully accommodate her.’ I can’t say one bad thing about Dr. Stabb, he’s been invaluable,” she said.
Of course, there’s one final cherry on top of the conference sundae, and that is that the students who went on the trip were able to bond and network with each other.
“It is a big industry, but it turns into a small world super quick, so it’s cool to meet other students from UT and hang out with them,” Hamlet said.