By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
Baylor Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) members reflected on the program’s success Thursday and looked to the future at the group’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Founded on Jan. 9, 1970, Baylor PRSSA has provided public relations students with training and experience for half a century. The professional association, which has chapters all over the nation, helps students develop the necessary skills they need to build a career in public relations.
Dr. Marlene Neill, an associate professor in the department of journalism, public relations and new media, serves as the group’s faculty adviser. Neill said Baylor’s PRSSA chapter is one of the oldest in the country.
“PRSSA nationally was actually founded a couple years earlier [in 1968] so we were one of the first chapters nationally to be established,” Neill said. “We’re just a couple years behind.”
Including Neill, Baylor PRSSA has only had four faculty advisers throughout its history, two of whom are still active at Baylor. Maxey Parrish, a senior lecturer in the department of journalism, public relations and new media, served as PRSSA’s faculty adviser from 2001 until 2012. Parrish said he expects the chapter to continue to grow in the years to come.
“It won’t be with me, because I’m not going to be here in 50 years,” Parrish said. “I think with the foundation that it’s got and the growth of the PR profession… I see continued growth. I see a really vibrant group that continues to make a contribution to students in their professional preparation.”
Grand Rapids, Mich., sophomore Olivia Mohney, a PRSSA member, said the anniversary is one special moment in her time at an already-historic university.
“It means a lot actually… Baylor’s so old so you hear about Baylor celebrating their 175th anniversary this year, seeing all these anniversaries come along just really makes you understand how much of a part of a community and culture you are,” Mohney said. “Especially being something that’s in my major.”
While part of PRSSA, Mohney has had the chance to travel and meet PRSSA members from chapters around the country. Mohney said these interactions inspired her to grow the chapter into its next 50 years.
“It kind of opened my eyes to what PRSSA is across the nation,” Mohney said. “All I had known about was our little chapter and then I got to meet everyone from all across the country… It really gave me inspiration to further our chapter and help our chapter grow.”
Throughout its existence, Baylor PRSSA has strived to prepare students for careers in the field of public relations. Parrish said he considers the group’s ability to bring experts with real-world experience to students to be its greatest strengths
“I think the thing that stands out to me is some of the guest speakers that we’ve brought in over the years. We’ve had some really good professionals that have tremendous insight into the PR profession,” Parrish said. “When they come and talk about real life things that they’ve handled in their careers it has such an impact on the students, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of professional preparation… that’s really what this whole program is about.”