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Students in Austin

Big Ideas. Bright Future.

Communications Convergence at the Public Relations Student Society Conference

Public Relations in Austin

After a long talk about public relations and career aspirations, over ribs and brisket on the back patio of the famous Texas BBQ joint, Cooper’s, the group walked down 6th Street as night fell. The students took in the electric vibe and the sounds of country-influenced rock and roll barreling out of open-air restaurants and watering holes. It was obvious as we strolled down the street that Austin, Texas, really is the live music capital of the world. In a few short blocks, we went down Congress Street, or “The Main Street of Texas” which flowed between the Ann Richards Bridge, over Lady Bird Lake, and the Texas Statehouse, not surprisingly one of the largest statehouses in the nation. A group of Hofstra students and faculty were deep in the heart of Texas.

And on this particular Columbus Day weekend, Austin was also home to the annual Public Relations Student Society of America’s annual conference, where more than 800 undergraduate public relations students gathered to network and learn about their chosen field.

Activities included a resume critique, tips on how to make PRSSA campus chapters better, award ceremonies, and the 70s themed “Far Out in Austin” opening night reception.

Educational sessions included event planning with Brett Cannon of SXSW, and others on video production, crisis planning, and PR for health care and non-profits. Before leaving, the PRSSA students joined PRSA’s 1600 professional and scholarly attendees for a lecture on “Marketing with Purpose” with former VP of global advertising strategy and CMO of AirBnB Jonathan Mildenhall.

According to Associate Professor and PRSSA Advisor Jeff Morosoff, “The key for them is to network and to learn; the idea of being around another 1000 students, professionals, exposes them to new ideas, to what the future looks like, to how to get a job.

The students who get to go to the annual conference are selected through a point system, based on their activity and leadership in Hofstra’s PRSSA chapter – and most active students get to go.

Deep in the heart of Texas

The weekend started with agency tours of Austin PR firms and companies, like Edelman, Home Away, Bread & Butter and IBM. Rosaria Rielly, a senior studying public relations, visited Austin City Hall. “We had the chance to hear from a variety of professionals who work on the PR for the whole city of Austin - different speakers talking about all the different forms of government communications and how much fun they have working in it, showing us a commercial campaign they ran. We also got a tour of some of the control rooms with the screens and audio behind- the- scenes and watched them film a short clip for a PSA. It was interesting to hear about all the different job paths everyone took and how some positions are ones you would never actively seek out, yet are the most rewarding in the end.”

This was Middletown Delaware senior Kelly Wells’ second national conference. “We get to network with chapters, professionals and learn a lot about different jobs. My favorite panel was on event planning, which I can use for PRSSA and my internship, which is putting on large scale events at MSNBC.”

For Zack Libal of Hewlett, New York it was “very eye-opening to be exposed to different cultures and meet people from all over the country.” Zack’s favorite session was the “interview session, which taught us how to best present ourselves.”

Armadillo in Austin

The trip is not all work. Between networking and learning, the group took advantage of the trip and went out to an Austin City Limits concert and had Austin’s famous Tex-Mex. Rosaria said, “I’ve never been to Texas – Austin is a city with great culture…Great to see how everyone comes together and shares their ideas.”

At last year’s PRSSA in Boston, Hofstra’s chapter was named a star chapter. Student leaders in the Hofstra chapter have hosted several regional conferences.

Ciera Nickel from Orange County, CA, thought that Austin was “amazing, the city is so lively, I’m considering moving here after this…so many people have told me they think I’d fit in here; I do too.”

And at the end of the day, what’s most valuable about this unique opportunity is to create professional relationships that last a lifetime. Ciera, who heard career-inspiring advice from one of the organizers of Austin’s famous SXSW festival, said, “It’s valuable to hear from speakers; but networking with other students – from all over the country also all over the world is what’s really valuable. As a PRSSA student leader, I get to make connections with people I will be in field with for rest of my life. Plus, hopefully, make lifelong friends.”

Austin Conference