November 4, 2013
Baylor PRSSA President Parmida Schahhosseini, pictured on the far right,
By Sarah Turney, Human Resources Management and Nonprofit Marketing major
poses with some of her new friends at the National Conference in Philadelphia.
The Central Texas chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently provided a scholarship to send Baylor Student President Parmida Schahhosseini to the national conference in Philadelphia, Pa. Schahhosseini, a senior journalism major who transferred to Baylor last year, attended seminars, luncheons, professional development sessions and an awards banquet from Oct. 25 to 29 with other members of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) from around the country.
The first day of the conference consisted of workshops run by other PRSSA chapter presidents. There were sessions that focused on student-run PR firms and chapter president development. Three or four sessions were held at a time, and each gave Schahhosseini an idea of the "nitty gritty" side of PR and how it is "not easy or glamorous" to "think outside the box."
Different seminars were directed towards various segments of PR including sports, healthcare, technology, media relations, public affairs and nonprofits. Students heard from PR professionals from General Motors, the Phillies, the 76ers and the Cubs, among others.
Schahhosseini registered early for the conference and was entered into and won a drawing to have dinner with Mary Henige, director of social media and digital communication for GM. Schahhosseini said it was "really cool to have one on one time" with PR professionals and learn the backside of the business. Henige was the keynote speaker, and having dinner with her "really humanized her" for Schahhosseini.
When asked about the most significant takeaways that she had from the conference, Schahhosseini said that she learned how important that pitching and networking are to a person interested in public relations.
"PR can be very rewarding," Schahhosseini said. "After the conference, I knew for sure that I was in the right major."
She learned how to cater stories to the appropriate audiences and how to connect to individuals in the industry. PR people "have to technically be experts in everything," Schahhosseini said. They blend many different areas of expertise, and that challenge is something that Schahhosseini said she is excited about in her budding PR career.
Having the national conference of PRSSA and the PRSA International Conference concurrently conducted brings an added level of value to public relations students who attend, said PRSA Treasurer Blake D. Lewis III, APR, Fellow PRSA, a regular guest speaker for the Baylor journalism department.
"Students preparing to enter the professional public relations marketplace need as much exposure as possible to information that complements their formal education. With the two conferences occurring in adjacent facilities, PRSSA members can gain ready access to globally recognized speakers, as well as to a wide range of professional expertise," Lewis said. "Additionally, a frequently overlooked side advantage recognized by the seasoned professionals engaging with these students is exposure to additional knowledge on emerging practices in which students frequently have additional experience, such as digital communications. This makes student-professional conference interactions a win-win situation."
The Baylor PRSSA faculty adviser, Dr. Marlene Neill, has attended the PRSA national conference in the past. Neill said the conference "gives students perspective of the larger PRSSA organization. PRSSA gives students the opportunity for authoring blog posts...to run for national positions within PRSSA, write for various publications and compete in the Bateman case study competition."
The Bateman case study competition allows students to compete against peers at other universities for the best PR plan. Schahhosseini encouraged Baylor PRSSA members to form two teams for the Bateman competition. In addition, as student president she has scheduled agency tours and has plans for philanthropic involvement for the chapter.
Neill is in her second year as the Baylor PRSSA adviser and said she realizes the importance of students attending national events and getting fresh ideas for the chapter. Schahhosseini previously attended the PRSSA Leadership Rally in Arizona this past summer, a training for incoming student presidents.
All of the 50 to 60 current members of Baylor's PRSSA chapter have the chance to network and enhance their skill sets, and Neill is working with Schahhosseini to improve and expand those opportunities.
After graduation in May 2014, Schahhosseini hopes to work for a PR agency in Boston. She is interested in the healthcare, technology and nonprofit segments. Her experiences with PRSSA as both treasurer and president have prepared her for her career after Baylor.
She and Neill are excited for the growth of the Baylor PRSSA chapter, and they are working to rebuild and strengthen the opportunities that are offered.