Sharing insights from the West Coast
Illustration of the San Diego skyline

Learning beyond the classroom with PRSSA

Students share insights from the international Public Relations Student Society of America conference in San Diego

The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is a professional organization that seeks to advance student knowledge and skills in the communication and public relations industries. Loyola’s chapter of PRSSA prides itself on being a resource to all students, specifically those in the communication department, in order to grow and advance personally and professionally. PRSSA hosts weekly meetings featuring guest speakers in the industry from the Greater Baltimore Area, course selection assistance, internship panels, résumé critiques, and other professional development resources and activities. The society also hosts annual fundraisers to support local organizations in need and has a demonstrated history of connecting students to established public relations practitioners for internship and job opportunities and career mentorship.

Two students on Loyola’s PRSSA leadership board, Julia Mulry and Isabelle Garrity, share their experiences as members of the student leadership board for PRSSA and as attendees at this year’s international conference in San Diego, Calif.

View from the Grand Hyatt hotel of the hotel pool and the San Diego Bay
Julia and Isabelle’s hotel room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt featured an unbeatable view of the San Diego Bay and Centennial Park.
Speaker Will Collie on stage at the PRSSA International Conference in San Diego Isabelle Garrity and Julia Mulry posing for a photograph in front of a PRSSA step and repeat banner
Left: The first keynote address with Will Collie, General Manger at Edelman (the largest public relations firm in the world). Right: Isabelle and Julia at the first day of the conference.

Isabelle: I began attending Loyola’s PRSSA meetings my freshman year and soon became hooked on the opportunity to listen to communications professionals. PRSSA began to show me how my path after college might look. At the end of sophomore year, I applied to be on the leadership board. As I have found with most things I’ve been involved with at Loyola, the benefits are multi-dimensional: PRSSA has helped me grow both professionally and emotionally; access to Baltimore-area PR professionals provides a unique opportunity to interact and network with individuals who care about this industry and its future, and being able to engage with these professionals requires a level of maturity and communication skills that have developed over my years at Loyola. These raw and honest conversations with professionals have already helped and will continue to help in my personal and professional endeavors as I enter the workforce.

Julia: At any level of involvement with this organization, there are direct, positive results to being a member of PRSSA that prepare students for any and all professional endeavors. Not only have I grown both personally and professionally through my involvement with this organization, but I’ve unlocked a whole new world of possibilities and potential... PRSSA has elevated my professional engagement and has inspired confidence for me in professional networking, both of which I am happy to have as I launch my career.

Cheeseburger and basket of fries sitting on a tray at In-N-Out Burger
When in Rome California, no trip is complete without a visit to a world-famous In-N-Out Burger location.

Julia: I first learned about PRSSA’s international conference during my sophomore year, when our PRSSA Executive Board attended that year’s event. Watching that leadership team take full advantage of all PRSSA has to offer inspired me to become president of Loyola’s chapter during my senior year. The opportunities those students created for themselves and others in the organization motivated me to want to do the same—and to (hopefully) inspire the next generation of PRSSA leaders.

During our junior year, Isabelle and I discussed the potential of attending the next international conference in San Diego; in the summer leading up to senior year, we began composing a proposal. What started as a conference call with me and Sara Magee, Ph.D., and Tania Rosas-Moreno, Ph.D., professors of communication, manifested into research, budget proposals, and applications. I had no prior experience writing a budget proposal, and I feel fortunate to have gained this experience and had this chance to learn about this process. We detailed the purpose and mission of the conference, our experiences as student leaders in PRSSA and demonstrated history of involvement on campus, the funds needed for the trip, and the value that attending this conference would bring to us and to the entire PRSSA group and Loyola’s communication department. Through our relationships, connections, and work with so many departments on Loyola’s campus—including the department of communication, the University’s office of marketing and communications, Loyola’s Student Government Association, Education for Life, the Women’s Center, and the Dean’s Fund—our proposal was well-received and we were awarded funding to attend the event.

Isabelle: Tania Rosas-Moreno, Ph.D., associate professor of communication, is our PRSSA faculty advisor. Dr. Rosas-Moreno has been involved with PRSSA for several years and cares tremendously about our chapter and the organization as a whole. She has supported us every step of the way—and was able to help us solidify funding to attend the international conference in California. It’s extremely enriching to have Dr. Rosas-Moreno by our side, because she believes in this organization and in us to take it to the next level. Her energy is contagious and has made such a huge difference in what we’ve been able to accomplish this year.

Before we attended the conference, I was looking to learn more about the industry of public relations. As someone who has always envisioned a career path in advertising/marketing, I wanted to delve deeper into opportunities for public relations work with different organizations and companies. I also wanted to explore and hear the perspectives of those who work in public relations agencies, versus working in a corporate setting. I was expecting to gather answers to questions that many of our PRSSA members have—and then to bring what I learned at the conference back to Loyola, so other students could be provided some helpful insight for their own careers.

Julia: Each day of the conference was packed with multiple guest lecturers, workshops, and networking events. We flew into San Diego on a Friday and jumped right into the action with keynote speaker Will Collie, General Manager of Southern California at Edelman. Some of the other powerful and inspirational speakers we heard from included Suzi Brown, Vice President of Communications for Disneyland; Erika Prime, Digital and Social Lead for Taco Bell; and Bob Woodward, esteemed author, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and associate editor for the Washington Post. Chapter President Workshops afforded attendees the opportunity to learn best practices on leading a University’s PRSSA chapter and connected us with others who shared their experiences; and of course, there were numerous networking events with PRSSA members and industry professionals.

One of my favorite and most valued memories of San Diego was the Career Development Exhibition, an event held for students to network with representatives from top companies and graduate programs. It was a great opportunity to see the many diverse, exciting options that lie ahead—and I am incredibly appreciative of the connections I made as I near graduation.

The shoreline at Sunset Cliffs, San Diego Julia and Isabelle pose for a selfie at Sunset Cliffs, San Diego Pedestrians walking down the Pacfic Beach boardwalk
Left & middle: Julia and Isabelle at the iconic Sunset Cliffs in San Diego. Right: The Pacific Beach boardwalk.

Julia: The objective of the conference was to provide nearly 700 students from around the globe the opportunity to learn from top industry professionals through keynote speeches, breakout sessions, workshops, and networking events. It is through this type of unparalleled event that we have access to tools and strategies to set us apart as young PR professionals, as well as the chance to learn more about potential career paths and job opportunities. I was so impressed by how ambitious our peers from other colleges are, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the compelling anecdotes and interesting experiences our panelists and speakers shared. Through this conference, I had hoped to solidify my passion for a career in PR—and I did. I was invigorated to hear the stories of how these professionals got started. Everyone’s path is different. I was hoping to gain insight as to what career path within PR was the one for me, and I really enjoyed hearing fresh perspectives and advice to help me discern what will come next.

I feel so lucky to be a part of a university community that wants learning to transcend the classroom.

Isabelle: I can’t reiterate enough how lucky we are to be at a school that supports this kind of endeavor for students. Being so involved in PRSSA and attending this conference has brought my Loyola experience full circle. Loyola truly aims to help any student make anything happen. I have felt a great amount of support from students and faculty members throughout my four years here, and I feel so lucky to be a part of a university community that wants learning to transcend the classroom. The professors and departments that supported us and helped us attend this conference understood that this trip wasn’t just for Julia and me—and that we would be able and intended to bring back our lessons and share them with others. That was so important to us both, because we want the younger members of Loyola’s chapter of PRSSA to be invigorated by our energy and see themselves in leadership positions, taking advantage of these kinds of opportunities before they graduate. Our community is integrated and works together in a way that continues to support, encourage, and challenge me, and I’m really proud to be a part of it.

Bob Woodward speaking at the PRSSA International Conference in San Diego
Known as “the best pure reporter of his generation, perhaps ever” by the Weekly Standard, Bob Woodward gives his address in the grand ballroom at Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.

Julia: My time at Loyola has been completely transformative, and I have been supported in and out of the classroom in order to make opportunities like this happen. Since starting at Loyola, I have had numerous experiences beyond my classes that have shaped my career choices and preparation for what’s next. I have toured PR agencies off-campus through the Rizzo Career Center, had my résumé critiqued by professional advisors, practiced interviewing techniques, developed a rapport with numerous industry professionals, and received internship placement assistance through various campus organizations. Each and every organization that supported us has done so graciously, eager to hear about our learning, our takeaways, our experiences. Loyola has truly equipped me with the tools I need to enter the communications workforce through academics and practical applications.

Photos courtesy of Isabelle Garrity and Julia Mulry.