Rochester Institute of Technology students who belong to the Public Relations Student Society of America are having their club meetings in a classroom this fall. They are among the first in the country to receive college credit for being members of a PRSSA chapter.
Ten RIT students are taking a Public Relations Practicum class taught by Senior Lecturer Mike Johansson in the School of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts. Students may take the course for credit as many as four times, and their membership dues for PRSSA are paid by the School of Communication if the student takes the course for two consecutive semesters.
The RIT PRSSA chapter formed about 10 years ago. Previously, the members would gain experience helping other RIT clubs with their PR needs. This fall was the first time a class was offered, and several public relations professionals were invited to talk about their work. Other weeks, they examine case studies and learn things such as how to best communicate during a crisis.
“I’ve learned more about the intricacies of public relations, including best practices for things like crisis PR, planning and pitching to journalists,” said chapter president Julie Constable, a fourth-year advertising and public relations major from Westtown, N.Y.
Nick Guadagnino, who graduated from RIT in 2014 with a degree in advertising and public relations, recently visited the class and talked about working at an ad agency, working with clients and the transition from school to the workplace. He began working at Martino-Flynn, an advertising agency, a week after graduation and is now a PR and social media assistant account executive there.
Guadagnino said his co-op with the agency when he was a student at RIT gave him real-world experience and enabled him to make connections in the field. He called co-ops “incredibly valuable” and urged they find one in the city where they hope to work.
He answered students’ questions: there is no typical work day, there are better days to send press releases to media for coverage, and the writing classes he took at RIT helped him the most.
“It was really cool just to be able to talk to people who actually graduated from RIT and are working in the field I want to get into,” said Alyna Martin, a fourth-year advertising and public relations major from Las Vegas.
The students are also preparing for the prestigious Bateman Case Study Competition, a national challenge where students form teams and create, implement and evaluate public relations campaigns for an actual client. This year, they will create an advertising campaign for a client involved in mental health awareness. Johansson said it is the first time in five years RIT will have two teams entering the competition.
Johansson said he only knows of two other colleges—one in Texas and one in Idaho—that offer PRSSA members college credit.
“It’s a great way to encourage students to join PRSSA and get experience beyond the classroom,” he said.