Although Kent State’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America is winding down, its April donation drive to benefit Kent State’s Women’s Center, the values that inspired it remain essential to the organization. The drive, which continues through the month of April and has donation bins in Franklin Hall rooms 204 and 301, accepts canned food, hygiene products and other basic necessities.
Senior public relations major Natalie Meek, Kent State’s PRSSA chapter president, said the organization hosted the donation drive in honor of “the godmother of public relations” Betsy Plank, one of the first strong and successful female figures in public relations. Though Plank passed in 2010, students uphold her legacy through a nationwide initiative integrating her values into their professional lives.
“A huge part of what she stood for was philanthropy and giving back to people,” Meek said. “So this is the way that PRSSA Kent kind of acknowledges the philanthropy part of what she does and what she stood for.”
Kent State’s PRSSA chapter sponsors a different service initiative each year, she said. Last year, it collected professional clothing for the Women’s Center’s career closet. Meek views her role as PRSSA Kent’s president, she said, as a chance to provide members not only professional opportunities, but opportunities to channel their talents into a greater social cause.
“It’s really important that we’re able to establish ourselves as a contributor to the common good on campus,” Meek said.
Being a contributor to the common good, showing consideration and care toward the public that a given campaign interacts with, she said, is the essential difference between superficial and genuine public relations.
“When what you do is driven out of realization that you have to help others first, it drives all your other actions out of that,” Meek said, “it’s rooting your work with good intentions.”
Seeing students spearhead programs like this donation drive feels rewarding, said associate professor Stefanie Moore, PRSSA Kent’s interim faculty advisor. Students alone led this project and most of the organization’s other projects, she said. Within PRSSA, students organized their own leadership board that independently plans events.
“Honestly, it makes me so proud,” Moore said. “And I know that they are also proud when they can do stuff that, in terms of community outreach and philanthropy, helps people’s lives. I know that’s a rewarding feeling for them too.”
Beyond emotionally rewarding, these charitable opportunities can be professionally rewarding as well. While classes teach about corporate social responsibility, Moore said these kinds of projects provide students with the opportunity to act out those lessons. This kind of experience, she said, further teaches students lessons they don’t learn in the classroom.
“I think that a lot of the stuff they do is academic related but it’s also professional development and community outreach,” Moore said. “It’s a full package.”
Michael Indriolo covers social services. Contact him at email@example.com.