Between missed flights and awards, DePaul’s chapter only strengthened the bond between members in its travels to Texas
By: Konner Gross
Being part of PRSSA has opened doors that I would have otherwise thought impossible. I’ve made countless connections, strengthened my skillset in unfathomable ways and learned more than I ever thought I would when I paid dues last Fall. With all these benefits, the one I’ve been thinking of most recently – as I write this over winter break – is the number of friendships I’ve made. The chapter’s camaraderie cannot be understated.
Sealing the deal for these lifelong friendships was the 2022-23 trip to the PRSSA International Conference (ICON) held in Dallas. DePaul students not only boosted their reputation at the national level and brought immense takeaways back to The Windy City, but they also strengthened the chapter’s close bond and e-board’s admiration for each other.
Despite some bumps in the road to Dallas for DePaul PRSSA members – including a missed flight, rental car mishaps and a fire delaying departure from O’Hare – members arrived safely and immediately got to work promoting the 2023 Midwest District Conference (PR eLevated) and meeting fellow students and professionals from around the world.
Throughout the weekend, DePaul students attending the event stacked their networks with contacts, learned about the field from practitioners and participated in professional development exercises.
Visitors to ICON also participated in stellar programming. Keynote speaker Marlee Matlin highlighted the importance of the ‘A’ in DEI&A. Breakout session leaders like David Grossman and Brandi Boatner emphasized the power of authenticity and self-worth. Columbia College Chicago’s own Anne Marie Mitchell presented research surrounding the infamous YouTuber apology video formula. And industry professionals from some of the nation’s largest organizations gave the scoop on what it takes to be in their shoes.
Following the “remote years” necessitated by the pandemic, DePaul PRSSA members were ecstatic to travel to Texas to partake in programming. ICON didn’t disappoint.
On top of the programming, ICON served as the National PRSSA organization’s annual awards ceremony. DePaul’s chapter won multiple accolades throughout the event, showcasing its cemented presence at the national level.
For starters, The Star Chapter Award, awarded by the National PRSSA Organization, recognizes chapters that achieve the “gold standard” of excellence within the organization by providing stellar programming and relationship-building opportunities for its students.
DePaul’s submission for the award, completed last spring, highlighted the chapter’s pivot from remote to hybrid formats and its commitment to providing its members with practical programming regardless of venue.
The chapter also brought home the Dr. F.H. Teahan Chapter Award for 2022’s Best District Conference. This served as a gratifying moment for retiring Chapter President Pavitra Reddy, incoming President Gisselle Bahena, and the remainder of the leadership team, all of whom helped make the award-winning conference a success.
After winning its bid to host an in-person conference for Midwest universities last winter, DePaul PRSSA was forced to pivot to a remote format following the surge in COVID-19 cases and subsequent restrictions.
Even when held remotely, the conference exposed PRSSA members to vast networking and professional development opportunities from some of the industry’s largest agencies and practices.
I fondly remember attending 2022’s conference as a shy dues-paying member. Little did I know, that just weeks after, I’d play an active role in the chapter. A year following, I’d help execute 2023’s conference as PR eLevated’s Promotions Director.
Following the awards and success from 2022’s conference, DePaul submitted a bid to host 2023’s as well. Little did the e-board know that just blocks down the street from the Loop campus that Columbia College Chicago was also preparing a bid.
Needless to say at this point, our two Windy City institutions have joined forces and are preparing to host PR eLevated in March! The conference will educate attendees on advancing the field while paying homage to Chicago’s vast public relations industry, all connected via the city’s iconic “L” trains.
Even over DePaul’s winter break and during Columbia’s finals, the team is hard at work planning logistics. I cannot wait to see what we accomplish as a duo of chapters and the takeaways our attendees have following the event’s conclusion in March.
The winnings, recognition and network-building were great… but for me, a main takeaway from our trip to ICON will always be the friendship development among the e-board and Adviser Juliet Stantz.
From inside jokes and shared laughs over meals to six-hour collaborative Zoom calls and mentorship, members of the chapter lean on each other in ways that are truly magical. PRSSA, the PRAD Program, and the College of Communication at-large are always willing to help when prompted. As DePaul Communication students reading this, never forget that!
PRSSA – like any on-campus organization – aims to build these connections, whether traveling out of state or not. I’m confident that our chapter can use these close bonds to further foster such connections among our members and other DePaul PRAD students.
The Next Steps
Moving forward from ICON, on to PR eLevated, and into the chapter’s next steps this Spring, I’m certain that our deeply seated friendship and collective urge to succeed will take us far – whether in PRSSA affairs or in our future careers.
As I wrap up my undergraduate studies and reflect upon my brief (but mighty) time in PRSSA, I am immensely grateful and even more proud of all we’ve achieved. I can’t wait to see what comes in the time between now and next year’s ICON in Nashville!
Konner Gross finished his BA in Communication and Media in the Fall of 2022 and is now a graduate student in the Public Relations and Advertising program. He serves as DePaul PRSSA’s Vice President of Creative and PR eLevated’s Promotions Director.