Students Network, Gain Exposure to Public Relations Career Paths at International Conference

Networking and connections are critical foundations of public relations. Earlier this month, Kent State public relations majors experienced a conference where professionals from some of the most recognizable brands spoke to budding young professionals — the perfect opportunity for Kent State students to build strong foundations for their future careers.

From Oct. 13-17, 2023, eight Kent State’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA Kent) members traveled to the Public Relations Society of America’s International Conference (ICON) in Nashville. 

Junior public relations major Macy Rosen, ’25, one of the conference attendees, was able to get a glimpse into her dream career: working in public relations for an airline. Her favorite part of the five-day conference was hearing from Delta Airlines’ Vice President of Global Employee Communications, Gina Laughlin.

“My favorite part was Gina Laughlin’s keynote address,” said Rosen, who serves as the vice president of professional relations for PRSSA Kent. “I have always wanted to work in airline PR, and having one of my personal heroes speak again was such an amazing experience.”

Laughlin delivered the keynote address, which discussed her journey of leading her Delta team and how she suggests students master the art of trust-building in the world of public relations.

The conference also featured speakers from Ford Motor Company and ESPN, offered student networking sessions and had keynote addresses from leaders in the communications field, including Michelle Norris, host of the National Public Radio’s longest-running program, “All Things Considered,” and Washington Post Opinions columnist. Other session topics ranged anywhere from how to market yourself and your personal brand, to how AI is changing the game.

The conference also recognizes students and university PRSSA Chapters for excellence. PRSSA Kent earned the Star Chapter Award for the 12th year in a row. This award encourages student leaders to provide programming and relationship-building opportunities for their Chapters and rewards them for achieving these goals. 

Alongside the Chapter winning a National Award, alumna and former PRSSA Kent President Kayla Polansky, '23, won the National Gold Key Award, PRSSA’s highest individual honor. The National Gold Key Award recognizes students with outstanding leadership qualities and academic excellence in public relations within their PRSSA chapter. In addition, public relations major Chania Crawford, '25, the organization's diversity, equity and inclusion Co-Chair, was awarded two scholarships at the conference, the Gary Yoshimura Scholarship and the PRSA Foundation Travel Grant. These scholarships help fund an individual's educational pursuits and travel expenses to conferences helping to further skills and leadership in PRSSA.

“I feel so honored to receive these scholarships,” Crawford said. “They allow me to come to these conferences and develop my public relations skills and relationships with my network.”

Public relations major Camryn Lanning, ’24, another conference attendee, says her favorite part was a unique networking session called the Connect with Champions Breakfast, a buffet-style event where PRSA Champions (professionals) sat at tables, and students could jump from table to table to get to know a wide range of professionals from different fields.

“It was a great way to talk face-to-face with professionals and get advice,” said Lanning, who serves as PRSSA Kent’s web and social media co-chair.

ICON is an annual conference that took place at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in 2023. Each year, PRSSA, the national pre-professional organization for college students interested in public relations and communications, hosts ICON in collaboration with PRSA, the leading professional organization serving the communications community. PRSSA's International Conferences allow members to network with hundreds of other students and professionals in the country while also expanding professional development skills.

“I feel so grateful to have made it to ICON for my last year as a PRSSA officer,” said public relations major Madison Goerl, ’24, the PRSSA Kent President, “and to be lucky enough to share it with such great friends made it even more special.”

Media and Journalism Professor Michele Ewing, APR, Fellow PRSA, advises the student organization.

"Working with PRSSA Kent students is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my role as a professor,” she said. “I witnessed the practical application of classroom knowledge and the transformation of these students into thoughtful leaders.”

POSTED: Friday, October 20, 2023 10:42 AM
Updated: Monday, November 6, 2023 04:52 PM
Eve Krejci, '24