Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Taking Action and Creating Connections

The Broom Center goes the extra mile to foster connections and maintain PR capstone tradition amid virtual instruction

Taking Action and Creating Connections

May 15, 2020

By: Mariah J. Hugo, Broom Student Fellow

Showing initiative is more than a buzz phrase for the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations. When the stay-at-home orders hit, San Diego State University moved classes online and the Mesa went quiet. The Broom Center forged forward, sticking to the plan. They knew they needed to create glimpses into the PR industry for students and continue to offer professional development.

Hampered by the need for physical distance, the Broom Center reimagined career programs and networking. Using Zoom, they doubled down to fill the void.

“We always talk about rolling up your sleeves and getting to work, even when it’s hard,” began the center’s director Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, Fellow PRSA. “Hearing that two-thirds of agencies believe they will have to furlough employees sent shivers through us—we knew that we needed to continue to invest in the people of public relations even though it would be hard,” said Sweetser referring to a recent PRCA poll.

3P Career Events

The spring 2020 planned launch of a series of career tours called 3P became a virtual Lunch+Learn series. The first 3P webinar featured Allison+Partners co-founder Scott Pansky on April 16.

Pansky spent an hour sharing his experiences from SDSU’s School of Journalism & Media Studies to his work today in a top-ranked global PR firm.

Pansky tied his accomplishments to leadership, creativity and taking the initiative in your own professional development. If that sounds like the Broom Center message in a nutshell, it is not by coincidence. The center’s namesake mentored Pansky while at SDSU, which turned into a life-long friendship.

Paula Neiderland, who graduates with a bachelor’s degree in public relations from SDSU in May, said that the webinar sparked inspiration.

“Tuning in to the Lunch+Learn was so refreshing,” said Neiderland. “I left the Zoom meeting feeling inspired for the first time in a while since the coronavirus outbreak began. It reminded me how important relationship building in PR is, and not just on the surface level.”

Virtual Coffee Dates

The sometimes lost and disconnected feelings that started to creep in led to a new program. Partnering with the Public Relations Society of America’s San Diego/Imperial Counties chapter early on in the quarantine, the two organizations sought to create informal networking opportunities. With two events now under their belt, these Broom Center x PRSA SD/IC virtual coffee dates will continue until California and San Diego reopen.

“We treat the virtual coffee dates much like a real coffee date,” said Sweetser. “We don’t have an agenda or program—we just log on and connect with more than a dozen people who are all trying to figure things out. We share job prospects and talk about campaigns that are crushing it. We really are in this together, and it never feels more so than during the virtual coffee date.”

In his Lunch+Learn webinar, Pansky seemed to agree with the importance of this type of networking and creating connection.

“Today’s relationships are tomorrow’s long-term network,” said Pansky.

McKenna Wecker, another class of 2020 May graduate and Broom Student Fellow, feels more relieved with these opportunities.

“These meetings take away some of the anxiety that students are facing right now,” said Wecker. “I learn from them each time. I’m always meeting professionals and hearing about their experiences, so I feel more prepared to enter our job market.”

Different Type of Debut

Another casualty of the cancellation of public events tried to hit the class of 2020 as a double whammy. Already cautious about their entrance into the working world in an uncertain economy, spring 2020 graduates faced disappointment as graduation celebrations were postponed or canceled.

The Broom Center wanted to save at least one celebration.

“When students complete the campaign capstone, we consider it a debut to the profession,” said Sweetser. “This year we were planning an even more formal event to celebrate the JMS PR class of 2020.”

Not willing to cancel their big professional debut, Sweetser worked with PRSA SD/IC to help promote the capstone client presentations as virtual case study events for the chapter.

“These new professionals will still be celebrated for the work they did on their first PR campaigns and welcomed to the industry by their peers. In the end, that is what is most important,” said Sweetser.

Staying Mission-Focused

It wouldn’t be hard to lose focus during a pandemic, but the Broom Center sees this as the time when the people of PR need the most investment.

“Dr. Glen Broom had a heart for his students, and now it’s time to open our heart to support the people of PR,” said Sweetser. “We can’t just talk about showing initiative and pushing the status quo. We have to lead by example. We will continue to invest in those people of PR who are using their grit to fight to the other side of these challenging times.”

On the Calendar

The next 3P webinar event is May 20 at 5 p.m. EDT, in partnership with the Public Relations Student Society of America. The Broom Center x PRSSA 3P webinar will feature a panel of PR people representing the best brands in the nation talking about persistence in finding work in the economy ahead. To register, visit

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

More PSFA Stories