The Public Relations Student Society of America organization at Southeastern Louisiana University has been a tight knit group since it was activated in 2003. With a small selection of communication majors and a concentration in public relations, the past presidents were able to network and expand the group to what it is today.
According to Joseph Mirando, who has a doctorate in communication and is a communication professor at SELU, the Public Relations Student Society was founded in 2003 by alumna, Melissa Biehl who is now the owner of Dollar-Biehl Innovative Solutions in New Orleans. However, Mirando said that the group came to a halt in 2005 and was not active again until 2013.
Mirando said, “In the fall of 2012, a student named Jasmine Tate put together a project in her Communication 102 class that focused on reactivating the organization and officially affiliating with the national Public Relations Student Society of America. In the spring of 2013, Southeastern was awarded a campus charter and in the summer of 2013, the national PRSSA officially recognized us as a chapter.”
Mirando said that the chapter was celebrated with an open house at the Tangipahoa Parish Tourism Center declared in September of 2013. After the organization was dormant for seven years, he said that Tate achieved her goal and the organization was recognized nationally.
Mirando said, “When I saw how hard Jasmine Tate was willing to work to build this chapter, I felt honored that she asked me to serve as her faculty adviser”. Since the reactivation of the organization, Mirando has been the faculty advisor to help communication majors go in the right direction with their curriculum.
Mirando explained that Tate was president from fall 2012 until she graduated in fall 2014. Tate then left the presidency to Jada Davis, another communication major at SELU, and she was president in the spring of 2015. According to Mirando, both of these early presidents have graduated from SELU and now have successful careers in the public relations field.
Meredith Keating, former president of PRSSA in fall 2015, spring 2016 and fall 2016 and alumna of Southeastern said, “I was vice president when Jada was president and we worked really well together and had similar visions for the organization. When it was time for Jada to step down, I felt like I was ready to lead the chapter and continue the vision that Jada and I had for the group.” Keating was a member of PRSSA for seven semesters and said how much she enjoyed participating in the mock-press conferences and going to conferences hosted by other universities. She said, “They worked hard to get speakers, talk about important topics in meetings, become involved in the community and to go to conferences. All of these things are what makes being in PRSSA worthwhile.”
Jaime Gelpi, who was the president in the spring of 2017, said that she followed in the path of leadership that was set before her by the previous presidents. Gelpi said, “PRSSA is not only local, it’s national too, so you feel like you are a part of something bigger, and it is way more recognizable on a resume.” Gelpi said how PRSSA has developed her into a leader and prepared her for her dream job that she will be full-time in after her graduation date in December 2017.
Gelpi explained how she tried to expand the group by encouraging her members to participate and organize activities. During Gelpi’s presidency, Rachel Beyer, who was a new member at the time, explained how they created a fundraiser to purchase t-shirts, performed a successful mock-press conference and attended the public relations conference at Loyola University in New Orleans.
Mirando said that PRSSA has now gained a new president and vice president to continue the thriving organization at SELU. Cabrina Gordon, senior, is the current president and Rachael Beyer, junior, is her vice president.
Gordon spoke about her experiences through her time at PRSSA and said, “I get to network with people who have similar career interests. I get to study case studies, where we look at major PR crises that companies have faced. I also can attend out-of-state conferences and listen to guest speakers who are successful professionals in the field.”
Beyer explained how she became involved in PRSSA and how she became vice president. She said, “I had to take Communication 102 with Dr. Narro and we were required to join a club for our final grade in the class so I joined PRSSA because it was associated with my concentration and I just have to thank Dr. Narro for this opportunity in this organization.” Beyer explained how being in PRSSA helped her create networking skills and because of this, she was able to gain an internship over the summer.
Southeastern’s PRSSA organization has been built by dedicated leaders to make the organization what it is today. Beyer explained that PRSSA is always looking for driven individuals to continue to build the history of PRSSA like the members have in the past. Mirando said, “For a public relations student, there is no extracurricular activity that is more important; a membership in the PRSSA is the key to a successful career.”