Public relations students dive into agency life

Wednesday, March 27, 2024
Students pose for a group shot at Allison Worldwide's Los Angeles office. Photo provided by Dr. Kaye Sweetser
Students pose for a group shot at Allison Worldwide's Los Angeles office. Photo provided by Dr. Kaye Sweetser

LOS ANGELES — San Diego State University's public relations students traveled outside the classroom and straight up the 5 to get a first-hand view of the PR industry. A large cadre of School of Journalism & Media Studies’ Public Relations Student Society of America students caravanned to Allison Worldwide’s Los Angeles office for an agency tour and attended the PRSSA Western District Conference. Students learned from the hands-on experiences of PR professionals from different sectors and companies. 

Hosts Scott Pansky (class of 1991), Dana Block, Lily Newman and Abril Sosa-Pineda (class of 2022) kicked off the two-day trip at Allison Worldwide by sharing the steps they took to succeed in PR at a global agency. Each professional emphasized the importance of building relationships and teamwork. 

“Having the opportunity to build relationships with PR professionals was beneficial as someone who aspires to be in their shoes one day,” said Saraí Solorzano, a public relations senior. “My biggest take-away is how big my dreams for my career can be. Learning how each professional found their seat at the table and built their own was eye-opening.” 

The 30 SDSU PRSSA students spent the following day at the PRSSA Western District Conference hosted at California State University, Northridge. The Aztec contingent claimed bragging rights at the conference, having assembled the largest PRSSA chapter representation and participation at the conference.  

Pansky, a School of JMS alumnus, moderated the conference which had more than 100 attendees overall. The conference began with keynote speaker Matt Prince, followed by 20-minute group sessions with PR professionals from 15 sectors. 

Paul Gomez, director of global public affairs at Lululemon, hosted a competition to end the day. Students attending colleges across California split into 11 groups and worked together to create and pitch a hypothetical diversity campaign for Lululemon. 

“Creating a campaign in roughly two hours was an exciting challenge,” said Dorothy Leppek, a public relations senior. “The experience helped me grow as a lateral thinker and team player.”

These experiences for the PR students reinforce the program values in the School of JMS. Named as one of the best universities for PR by PRNews, SDSU’s School of JMS invests in opportunities like these to help their students jumpstart their future careers. 

“At JMS, we are committed to empowering students with the ability to succeed in their careers after graduation,” said Dr. Temple Northup, director of the School of JMS. “Of course we have this baked into our experiential curriculum, but we don’t rely on just that. We create beyond-the-classroom opportunities like this so our students can jump into the industry – even if for just a day. This allows them to expand their networks and gain hands-on experiences.”

A key partner in that mission is the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations. The Broom Center, named in honor of a professor who taught at SDSU for 30 years, invests in PR students, faculty and practitioners who push the industry status quo. The center, along with the School of JMS, sponsored this two-day trip for the 30 SDSU students working toward a career in PR. 

“Real world experiences in global agencies and networking with the region's most up-and-coming public relations professionals are exactly the types of experiences that our center’s namesake Dr. Glen Broom believed in,” said the center’s director Dr. Kaye Sweetser. “These first looks at the industry end up shaping our students' view of PR, and inspire them for what is possible in their future careers. There is nothing better than investing in the future of the industry by investing in the people who will comprise it.” 

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