Boston trip provides inside look at PR in action for communication arts students

IMG_3428

Post by Anna Claire Sewell, PRSSA President
Photos by Ashley Fitch Blair and Shelby Kee

As I glanced around at my peers on the flight home, I couldn’t help but think about what an awesome experience we had in Boston. As students in Union University’s communication arts department, we are presented with opportunities through our PRSSA chapter that are not only educationally enriching, but also exciting.

PRSSA, Public Relations Student Society of America, is an on-campus organization that allows students to lead and learn through the integration of knowledge and professional development. Along with a day trip to meet with communication professionals in the fall, Union’s PRSSA chapter takes a trip to a larger market during the spring semester.

During our stay in Boston, we met with communication specialists in three different areas of the field. The first morning there was freezing — actually, quite below freezing. It did not faze us! We grabbed our coffee and were excited for the day ahead.

Our first meeting was with Shawn McBride, executive vice president of sports at Ketchum Sports & Entertainment. McBride shared about his love of working in a fast-paced international PR firm and gave us advice as we enter the work force.

A few short train rides later, we found ourselves stepping into a broadcast dreamland. The communications team at WGBH Boston gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how they handle strategic communication for such a large station. Here’s the most exciting part: WGBH Boston produces one-third of the national programming on PBS. A few of the shows produced by this station include Arthur, Zoom, Antiques Roadshow, The American Experience and NOVA!

To see the amount of work put into the shows I enjoyed throughout my childhood into adulthood really put my future career into perspective. This visit showed me that while I will only be one communications specialist, my work has the potential to affect millions of people.

Our list of professional visits concluded T.K. Skenderian, director of communication for the Boston Athletic Association and its signature event, the Boston Marathon. This meeting provided us with a chance to ask questions about nonprofit work and crisis communication. Skenderian shared some powerful insights through his experience with the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing on how to carefully handle crisis communication during a tragedy. From that experience, Skenderian tied in his love for working for a cause bigger than himself.

In addition to the professional development aspect of the trip, we also spent some time checking out historical sites and taking in the local flare that Boston has to offer. From the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum visit, to the multiple cannoli consumed, to the large amounts of coffee purchased to keep us warm in the cold wind, we got a small glimpse at how Boston culture plays into the work environments in the Northeast.

When I decided to declare my major as public relations, I had no idea how many doors could be opened with a degree in the communications field. Our trip to Boston provided each member of PRSSA the chance to dive deeper into what exactly it means to be a communication professional. This Boston experience was an excellent way to top off my time at Union with peers who have become friends and professors who have become mentors.

As I picked up my bags at the airport to head back to Jackson, I left with a feeling of purpose and excitement for what is ahead for me and each of my fellow communications majors.

History of Animation: Special Interest Elective

160222_KMW_AnimationClass005

During the spring semester, students had the opportunity to learn about the origins, process and legacy of animated film in a history of animation class. The class, taught by Chris Blair, professor of communication arts, traced animation from its beginning in the late 1800s to the early 2000s.

Gabe Hilliard, junior public relations major, said he knew he wanted to take the class from the moment he saw the poster.

“It’s kind of a weird class to take,” Gabe said. “It’s not really part of my major, but it looked so interesting and like a lot of fun.”

The class included lectures and readings, but the students also watched animated films and documentaries in class. Gabe said he grew up watching cartoons and little else, and he never grew out of them. He said he had seen most of the movies watched in class, but he was more impressed with them after learning about the roles of individual animators.

“I didn’t ever think about just how much they were the key,” Gabe said. “It relies solely on them to draw the animations. I had no idea Ub Iwerks, Chuck Jones and guys like that existed, aside from Disney, but I had seen their work.”

As part of the class, students were required to make their own short animations using traditional methods. Gabe said while working on the project he realized it is important to have an idea of the final product. He said this is something he can apply to his work in public relations.

“Even though an individual piece might not seem important, it will mess up the big picture if it isn’t done well,” he said.

Anna-Alicia Sails, a senior broadcast journalism major, said she has also liked animation since she was a child, but she knew very little about it and had not seen most of the films shown in the class. She said the process of animation was very interesting to her.

“I loved learning about the equipment and how it started with the cameras, vitascope, multi-plane cameras and all that went into it,” Anna-Alicia said. “Knowing a little more about that I think will help me in broadcasting where I’m around cameras every day.”

She said she was also fascinated by the early life of Walt Disney, and she wanted to learn even more about him after taking the class.

“At first he wasn’t very successful, but he ended up being so influential,” she said. “Just seeing his hardship and how he worked so hard, he is the epitome of never giving up.”

The history of animation class is open to all students and will be part of the new film studies major beginning this fall.

Story by Nathan Handley, photos by Kristi Woody

160411_KMW_HistoryofAnim034160222_KMW_AnimationClass003160411_KMW_HistoryofAnim007160411_KMW_HistoryofAnim011160411_KMW_HistoryofAnim017160411_KMW_HistoryofAnim027