Checking In @ My Alma Mater

Last week I spent time at my old stomping grounds – the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was invited to speak at the Public Relations Association (PRA) meeting and an Intro to PR course. PRA is a student organization I joined as an undergrad and is similar to PRSSA on a college campus. This group provides students with real PR experience through work with local businesses and other promotional events.

Every month I speak to a handful of students by phone and email about getting into PR. I meet students through my alma mater, friends of friends,, LinkedIn and Twitter. I’ve been so fortunate to learn from professionals in the industry and while I may only be a few steps ahead of them I have learned so much in the last two years I want to share with students.

I discussed my background and how I found my way into PR. I highlighted top books, including Jenny Blake’s Life After College and Jessica Kleiman and Meryl Weinsaft Cooper’s Be Your Own Best Publicist. I have to send big thanks to these friends who provided content/insights for my presentation: Britten Wolf, Justin Goldsborough, Lauren Gray, Mikinzie Stuart, Christa Marzan, Kimberly Lucio and Jackie Lampugnano. I focused on the importance of Twitter and recommended participating in the following conversations: #HAPPO, #pr20chat, #PRStudChat, #u30pro, #journchat and #jobhuntchat.

While on campus I also caught up with the university’s spokesperson, Robin Kaler, and the College of Media Dean, Jan Slater. These professionals are great examples of wanting to share their knowledge.  I reached out to Robin senior year because I wanted to learn about what she did in the Public Affairs office. Every time I’ve been back on campus she has always made time to meet amidst a hectic schedule. Jan invites alums to visit while on campus and I knew I definitely would be taking her up on that offer.

The best news? Jan invited me to join the Advisory Board for creating a public relations certificate!! At Illinois students have had to look for PR exposure through organizations like PRA and a minimal course list… until now. Students will now have the opportunity to learn about PR in the classroom taking that knowledge to their internships and student organizations. And hopefully demand will turn this certificate into a minor. I am thrilled for this opportunity and cannot wait to see what’s next.

Have you connected with your alma mater? If not, why not reach out? If you’re a student what are you looking for from professionals?