JMS Alumnus Named PRSA Public Relations Professional of the Year

November 6, 2019
Brook DeWalt, Kaye Sweetser, and David Dozier
Pictured, from left to right: Brook DeWalt, Kaye Sweetser, and David Dozier

If you talk to his professors, they will say that Brook DeWalt came to San Diego State University already an accomplished practitioner. He was hand-selected by the U.S. Navy for the first SDSU military public affairs graduate program in 2005-06. While at SDSU, he earned Accreditation in Public Relations on top of his studies, setting the bar for future cohorts.

DeWalt, now a U.S. Navy captain serving as director of public affairs operations for the U.S. Secretary of Defense, credits his master’s degree studies at SDSU as giving him a professional edge.

“While I had years of corporate and military experience to bring to the table,” began DeWalt, “It was my time at SDSU where I could bring all my experience to bear with a solid graduate education steeped in research, theory and statistical analysis. It sparked so many new ways of looking at things.”

That strategic approach is paying large dividends to DeWalt, who was recently named the Public Relations Society of America Public Relations Professional of the Year.

The description of the award draws heavily from the definition of public relations, penned here on the mesa by the late professor emeritus Dr. Glen Broom, and later adopted by the entire profession.

“The award is given to the individual who, in the previous year, represented the best in public relations as an outstanding example of the management function that established a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and the public upon who its success or failure depends,” noted PRSA announcing DeWalt’s honor.

Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, Fellow PRSA from SDSU’s School of Journalism and Media Studies put the award into perspective.

“Out of the more than 30,000 members of PRSA, our very own Brook DeWalt is the professional of the year,” said Sweetser, who is now the coordinator of the SDSU-JMS military public affairs graduate program. “For more than three decades Capt. DeWalt has been the embodiment of Broom’s Effective Public Relations definition of public relations. But this year stands out. As a results-orientated practitioner trained by Dr. Broom himself, Capt. DeWalt focused on the impact of his work over output. He achieved off-the-charts, measurable results for his military command.”

DeWalt’s year was one for the record books, indeed. As the public affairs officer for the nation’s largest combatant command, DeWalt worked to make complex nuclear weapon issues of U.S. Strategic Command understandable to the American public. Those communication campaigns earned 4 national-level PRSA awards, several local chapter awards and military public affairs campaign awards in 2018 and 2019.

“How many other PR professionals can link their work to making positive strides in nuclear de-escalation?” asked Sweetser.

DeWalt took the awards and praise in stride, positioning himself among a cadre of Aztec PAOs who push the status quo in their practice.

“Those of us who go through the rigorous program at SDSU seem to be the ones selected for the most challenging of assignments,” said DeWalt. “We offer our leaders more than just a public affairs officer doing the command’s public communication mission. We offer a true strategic thinker who can step in to nearly any crisis situation, analyze the environment and immediately begin to offer clear inputs to assist our leaders with strategic thought.”

Since his graduation in 2006, DeWalt returned to campus frequently to mentor military public affairs students and help them make quick connections between their studies and their work in the fleet.

“I see examples near daily about how my graduate education has made a difference for my practice of public communication,” said DeWalt, who became a member of the PRSA College of Fellows in 2013.

Sweetser described DeWalt as among the most engaged alumni at JMS.

In 2014 and 2019 he pinned newly accredited PAOs who earned Accreditation in Public Relations + Military Communication during campus visits. These APR+M pinnings have increased importance considering DeWalt was the force behind creating a military specialization for APR in 2010 and later worked as a senior officer to enable PAOs the opportunity to have APR and APR+M entered as qualifications in their service records.

For DeWalt, staying connected to his alma mater is a way to show gratitude for the impact he credits SDSU with in advancing his career.

“The military cohort program at SDSU put me in a position to truly focus on becoming a serious strategic advisor for senior leadership as I practice public communication,” said DeWalt.

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

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