In early October, the Associated Student Council (ASC) of Olivet Nazarene University recognized a new Public Relations (PR) Club. This student-led club, under the direction of journalism professor Liz Kerns, aims to help students interested in public relations learn more about the industry and give them a passion for it.
In addition to teaching journalism, Kerns is head to the new public relations major at Olivet.
Public relations, according to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), functions to “help an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”
“What I love about [public relations] is that you’re promoting your passion, promoting what you love,” Rachel Schramm, president of Olivet’s new Public Relations club, said.
Passions can include Shedd Aquarium, Hershey’s Chocolate or even Mountain Dew – all of these organizations have public relations officers. Public relations specialists can also find jobs working for political campaigns, humanitarian organizations or a public relations firm, which handles many clients at once. Schramm hopes to one day work for a public relations firm so that she can work for a diverse group of clients.
Schramm is the head of the club’s new student-led executive board. Also part of the executive board are Vice President Kate Cox, VP of Fundraising Alexis Smith, VP of Recruitment Hira Uddin, National Liaison Kaleb Miller, Director of PR Becca Williams, Secretary Jasmine Smith, Treasurer Destinee Ferguson, Associate Treasurer Nicole Pilbeam and Chaplain Elijah Svoboda. The officers went through an interview process and then were elected by the other members of the club.
The new officers are busy preparing for their respective roles. “Fundraising takes a lot of planning before you can implement anything,” said Smith. “We are currently planning a fundraiser for the end of the fall semester, and next semester we’ll be focusing on our summer fundraiser.”
Kerns and Schramm are also in the process of forming a chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
PRSSA is a daughter organization of the PRSA and its chapters are tethered to colleges and universities across the nation. There are currently more than 11,000 members and 300 chapters of the organization spread across the United States, Argentina, Colombia and Peru.
Once Olivet’s public relations club is recognized by the PRSSA, students in the program will have access to scholarships, a variety of competitions and numerous networking opportunities.
“It legitimizes the [public relations] program,” Kerns said of the hopeful recognition. “We now have access to a much larger world of [PR] education.”
Kerns is no stranger to the PRSSA; she was a member at her own college, Arkansas State University, from which she graduated in 2003. She was heavily involved with the organization, and attended national level events.
“It changed the way I looked at my profession,” Kerns said.
To become a PRSSA chapter, a school must fulfill the following criteria:
The university must have the required courses for a public relations major, the university must have the endorsement of a PRSA chapter, the chapter must be supervised by a faculty advisor with more than five years of experience and there must be ten or more students who wish to be a part of the chapter.
A unique aspect of Olivet’s chapter is that there will be a chaplain on the board of directors.
Kerns’ late-term goal for the program is to establish a student-led public relations firm at Olivet. The firm would handle public relations for local businesses and compete against the other twelve PRSSA chapters in the state.
Kerns said she is confident that Olivet’s public relations students will bring some tough competition to the other PRSSA chapters in Illinois.
“We’re going to give their students a run for their money,” said Kerns, “But we’re going to do it with a Christian mission, which is going to set our program apart.”
—Brandon Grossi, staff writer