On Friday, Nov. 7, 2008, eight students from Florida A&M University’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, along with professionals and 90 other students from other schools, attended the sixth annual Black Public Relations Society of Atlanta, Incorporated’s (BPRS/Atlanta) PR Summit.
At the Summit, held at the United Postal Service (UPS) headquarters in Sandy Springs, Ga., students had the chance to meet and interact with several mid- to senior level professionals through panel discussions, breakout sessions and hands-on PR workshops. Students engaged in dialogue with professionals, from the black perspective, and were also informed about making career choices, decision-making and preparation.
“The goal of this year’s, and each year’s summit, is to bring together (black) students and professionals for a day of networking with different professionals in the fields of communications and marketing,” said Matt Stevens, the 2008 chairperson for the Summit.
This year’s keynote speaker was Terri Hines, the director of communications for the Jordan brand, a division of Nike.
Inspired by the victory of President-elect, Barack Obama, Hines shared her thoughts about change and how Black students should break into their careers before graduating.
“Students can use this momentum to contribute to their communities by giving back, helping seniors, mentoring kids,” Hines said. “Its been said volunteerism has been lost on our youth and President Obama has certainly inspired all people young and old to work together for the betterment of our communities and our environment.”
Hines reminded participants that they can use Obama’s victory as an example of the “glass ceiling being completely shattered.”
“Network, network, network,” Hines emphasized. “It sounds cliché but you never know who you may encounter that may hold the key to opening the door of your dreams.
Find a mentor, someone who you admire, respect and trust and that has an interest in your success. More than one mentor is ideal and you may find you need different mentors for different stages of your career.”
Reflecting on her mistakes, Hines warned participants about conflicts they may incur.
“In the workplace, particularly corporate America, you will be challenged by your peers, by your management, and by the status quo,” she said. “Know when to fight for what is right and when its time to walk away.”
Also as a graduate of FAMU’s School of Business and Industry, Hines informed students at the summit about how her alma mater enabled her to succeed in life.
“FAMU taught me leadership skills, provided the educational framework and the foundation of solid business acumen needed to succeed,” Hines said, “Internships offered me real world opportunities giving me insight into career paths and industries I may not have considered and challenged me to put my classroom skills to use.”
In addition to Hines, Stevens said that students also networked with the communications director for the City of Atlanta, a journalist from the Associated Press, as well as communications representatives from Coca-Cola, United Postal Service, Dekalb County, the Georgia Department of Transportation, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, Cox Communications, and about 40 other professionals.
Ashley Smith, 21, a senior public relations student from Atlanta, Ga., said that attending the summit was an enlightening experience for her because she met so many great people in the public relations field, and she hopes that she can become something great.
“At the summit, I learned that FAMU is prestigious. Especially, the school of journalism,” Smith said. “I also learned about staying persistent, being timely, putting your best foot forward at all times, speaking well, and all the (business) etiquette of PR.”
Smith was greatly inspired by Hines’ success.
“Through her, I learned that black women can do it all,” Smith said. “She has worked at many Fortune 500 companies and was able to adjust to new environments. I can see that her persistence has gotten her where she is today.”
Keisha Ragland, 22, a graduating senior public relations student from Austin, Tx., said she was also inspired after attending the summit.
“I learned so much,” Ragland said, “Even though the economy is not that great right now, I learned that there are so many opportunities for people who are good at their skill.”
Ragland was impressed by a few of the young black professionals who were working for themselves.
“From them, I learned that the ultimate job is not working nine to five for a big corporate firm, but it’s working for yourself,” Ragland said.
Excited by the leadership and professionalism displayed by students from FAMU, BPRS/Atlanta awarded Mark Taylor II, a senior public relations student from Toledo, Ohio, the Beacon Award. This cash award is given annually to an African-American undergraduate student that exemplifies academic excellence, leadership qualities, and a commitment to achieving excellence in the field of public relations.
Taylor said he used this opportunity to mark his trail of success.
“Applying for this award was a chance for me to show up and show out for FAMU and my PRSSA Chapter, while also adding more clout to my resume and accomplishments,” Taylor said. “But, I had to work hard for it- I did my research, wrote and re-edited my submission, using what I’ve learned from FAMU and work experience.”
“Success doesn’t come packaged in a Tiffany box with a bow wrapped around it,” she said. “With hard work, drive and determination success is attainable.”