Three members of Monmouth University’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) attended the National PRSSA ICON Conference along with over 300 other university chapters in Nashville, TN, from Friday, Oct. 13 to Tuesday, Oct. 17.
Alexis Nulle, Specialist Professor and co-advisor of Monmouth’s PRSSA chapter, said, “PRSSA ICON is an event that brings Public Relations and Communication students together for professional development and networking. Event attendees learn from many industry professionals about their experience in the field and share their best practices.”
According to Oakley Weddle, ICON Conference Coordinator, this year’s conference garnered nearly 600 attendees, which consisted mostly of PRSSA members from chapters across the country and their advisors. “All PRSSA members and non-members have the opportunity to attend ICON, you do not have to be invited. The more the merrier! The conference is tailored to media students with an emphasis on PR, but students across all disciplines can learn from the content of the programming,” explained Weddle.
Monmouth University sent three members of PRSSA’s executive board to attend the event: Jordyn Rosen, President; Norma Sanchez, Vice President; and Nathaniel Cruz, Director of Events.
“These students were chosen because they have a history of being active members of PRSSA, dedicate so much of their time to Monmouth University’s PRSSA chapter, and work very hard to support our clients and chapter members,” Nulle said.
The members traveled to the conference, which was hosted at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, on Friday, Oct. 13. “We flew out of Newark International Airport on Friday and landed in Nashville International Airport the same day. Registration for ICON was on Friday, so we attended our first speaker event on Saturday,” said Rosen.
ICON offered networking opportunities and professional development workshops, but its main event was the speaker series.
Sanchez said, “Throughout the days of the conference there was always an opening morning session where there was an introduction to the conference. There were various speakers from about 11 a.m. to five in the afternoon. The speakers varied in different industries like non-profits, music, technology, airlines, and sports.”
According to Weddle, 70 public relations professionals spoke at the conference such as Milagros Orcoyen, Vice President of Events and Fundraising of PRSSA National; Amanda Brooks, Director of Communications at ESPN; and Keisha Monique, President & CEO of Keisha Monique Public Relations.
“My personal favorite keynote session I attended was on crisis communication. We heard from a PR team and mayor who dealt with a mass shooting in their town. They explained a timeline of what they did and things they would’ve done differently in retrospect,” said Rosen.
The event also gave attendees the opportunity to develop personal connections with PR professionals in a casual environment.
“Besides the speaker events, there was tons of free time set aside for networking and simply being able to mingle and meet other PRSSA or PRSA members,” commented Cruz. “Personally, I took a break during one of the speakers with Norma in which we actually met the founder of IvyHill PR, Amber Krasinki. We met while getting coffee at a snack station and simply started talking as we noticed that we were both from the east coast. We really hit it off and the three of us spoke for almost an hour.”
This trip was funded by Monmouth’s Student Government Association (SGA) as well as the Jersey Shore Public Relations and Advertising Association (JSPRAA). Nulle said, “We’re fortunate to have the support and funding from SGA to send two students. We are also very grateful for a generous grant in the amount of $2,000 from the JSPRAA.”
“Registration, flights, and the hotel were covered by our budget. But food, transportation to and from the hotel, and personal purchases were covered by those attending,” added Rosen.
Attendees and PRSSA’s co-advisors agreed that the benefits of attending the ICON Conference outweigh the costs. Nulle said, “I wish we had the funding to send our entire executive board and all our PRSSA general members to the conference as it is the most significant professional learning experience our PR students can obtain that can’t be taught in the classroom.”
“Giving students this opportunity to attend a national conference with industry leaders provides students with a career-enriching experience that can benefit the trajectory of their careers,” added Harris.
“Personally, I felt that this experience was insanely beneficial not just for the networking potential, but also for the skills I learned in how to market myself, gain confidence, and assess my own worth in a professional environment,” commented Cruz.