Club & Greek

University Professor Named New President of PRSA NJ

Specialist professor of communication Kristine Simoes was inducted as the new President of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) NJ chapter at PRSA NJ’s 2014 Kick-Off Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 30 in Tinton Falls, NJ.

As defined by, “PRSA is a community of more than 21,000 public relations and communications professionals across the US, from recent college graduates to the leaders of the world’s largest multinational firms.” Members represent nearly every practice area and professional setting within the field of public relations.

Simoes initially became affiliated with PRSA NJ ten years ago in an effort to be able to offer more knowledge in the classroom as well as to earn her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), which is a credential that recognizes public relations practitioners who have mastered the knowledge and skills of the field. The thought of becoming a member of the leadership board didn’t cross her mind until she was urged by Sheila McAllister, associate professor of communication and co-advisor of the University’s Shadow PR Firm and Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, who believed the role of Vice President would expand Simoes’s knowledge in the field.

According to Simoes, an academic professional has never before led the chapter until her election three years ago. “I would walk up to people like I was running for Congress,” she joked. Simoes promised to bring more of a South Jersey presence, an academic presence, and more overall visibility to the chapter.

As Vice President, Simoes assisted PRSA NJ President Jennifer Tornetta in budgeting, programming events, overlooking agenda reports on the committees, and organizing the Pyramid Awards which, according to Simoes, is one of the biggest events that PRSA NJ hosts.

Tornetta said, “Kristine is one of the classiest and most exceptional leaders I have ever had the privilege of knowing. She is a dedicated teacher, she walks the talk, and she comes from the non-profit world which is great perspective for our chapter.”

Simoes thanked Tornetta for leading the chapter this past year. “Jennifer is calm, cool, and collective, so basically, the complete opposite of me. If I ever run into a problem, I think to myself, ‘WWJD?’ or ‘What would Jennifer do?’” joked Simoes. “Jennifer is my dear friend and colleague. She is the Kate Middleton to my Fergie.”

Chad Dell, Chair of the Communication Department, said, “[Simoes] was nothing short of fabulous: confident, down-to-earth, and completely in charge. She had the room eating out of the palm of her hand.”

The newly inducted President then introduced the 2014/2015 leadership board with professionals including President-Elect David Patti of JFK Communications, Vice President Loren Waldren of MWW Group, and Treasurer Joe Gargiulo of Coyne Public Relations.

PRSA NJ currently has approximately 300 members, as stated on Simoes plans to increase membership for the chapter by 5 percent during her term as President. The chapter plans on obtaining this objective through collective programming, PRSSA mentorship, and support of membership.

Simoes said she wants to work more cooperatively with other communication organizations like the Public Relations Counsel of Greater Atlantic City as well as the Jersey Shore Public Relations and Advertising Association (JSPRAA) in order to cultivate more members.

According to Dell, by expanding the presence of PRSA NJ, Simoes “will increase the connection between college students and professionals, which will certainly benefit our students at [the University].”

Thirteen students and members of the University’s PRSSA chapter were present, in addition to other University faculty and staff  that are submersed in the communication program, to congratulate Simoes on her new position. Admission for students was $10 whereas for both PRSA members and non-members it was $40.

Victoria Day, a junior public relations student, attended the event and said Simoes is a role model and inspiration to her in her endeavor of becoming a public relations practitioner. “Not only is she a public relations guru, but she teaches in a way that gets her students ready for the real world. She assigns us hands-on projects which we can put into our portfolios for when we go on interviews,” she said.

Other students that were present at the ceremony included members of the newly founded Stockton University PRSSA chapter in addition to students of Georgian Court University who are interested in possibly starting a chapter to enhance their classroom experience by gaining leadership opportunities. According to, there are more than 10,000 students that are members of the PRSSA national network of public relations professionals.

“One of the interesting parts of the night was hearing NJ reporter for NBC 4 Brian Thompson speak,” said Day.

The approximate 60 people in attendance welcomed award-winning journalist Thompson as the keynote speaker of the evening as he provided a first-hand perspective on making NJ news by addressing the challenges public relations professionals face in the emerging media market.

“I do tweet, but that doesn’t mean I’m a twit,” laughed Thompson, who prefers Facebook over Twitter. “Twitter has become so overloaded with various people who tweet that you can’t keep up with it if you follow it. If you follow hundreds of people on Twitter you have this constant twitter feed and you can spend all day looking at it, but you can’t really keep up with it,” he said.

Thompson is most known for his 28 straight hour coverage of Superstorm Sandy and his tweet of the infamous picture of the rollercoaster that ended up in the sea that went viral.

During his speech, Thompson acknowledged the number of students in attendance and exclaimed that he was impressed. He advised the students that in order to become successful one must become digitally adaptive, develop social media savviness, understand key trends in technology, and welcome knowledge of the world into a daily ritual to stay informed.

Laurel Weber, a junior public relations student and Vice President of PRSSA, said Thompson’s speech seemed to engage the audience for most of the hour that he spoke, but other parts seemed lost and less cohesive than she expected. “His thoughts seemed jumbled and he jumped from topic to topic without taking a breath,” she said.

Simoes said in the future she wants to keep the keynote speech to more of a PRSA NJ focus in order to give an overview of the chapter and showcase the advantages of being involved.

Day believes Simoes will flourish as President of PRSA NJ because of her hard work and dedication to the field. She said, “Professor Simoes is passionate about what she does and that is evident through her teaching. She is more than fitting of this position.”

PHOTO TAKEN by Brianna McCabe