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

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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.

Union EDGE – It’s All About The Eggs

Post by Jennifer Graves, director of The Union EDGE

Recently I was at a family gathering and was asked about our Union EDGE Program and how it was going. We are teaching our students how to cook, and we had just had our very first cooking lab. For those who know me, I’m not the cooking teacher!   My assistant director, Kevin Ung, is the head chef for the Union EDGE program. The first lesson for our students was cooking eggs. Kevin demonstrated to his eager students how to scramble eggs, fry eggs, make eggs over-easy, and how to make an omelet. Each person chose the type of eggs that he or she wanted to make, and there were examples of each type.   Ethan likes his eggs fried. Seth wanted scrambled. Taylor does not really like eggs, but had fun making them. All eight students enjoyed learning a new skill. You see, the EDGE program is all about building independence. It is about teaching skills that will allow our students to be productive, independent, and safe in the community that we all share.

Two EDGE students enjoy learning to cook eggs in class

Back to the family gathering. As I shared all about the program and what it meant to each of our student students, one person said, “It really is all about the eggs.” Yes, it is. EDGE is about eggs last week, sandwiches the next, and vegetables in the near future. It is about living life.

Jennifer Graves is the director of the new Union EDGE program, which is a two year, 48-hour Postsecondary Education Program for students with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (IDD). This program is based on the Think College national standards. To find out more, check out our website. Below are some photos taken during EDGE events.

Union EDGE employees

Kelsey laughs with her mentors during the kick-off event.

Faculty mingle with EDGE students during the kick-off event The first group of Union EDGE students Blanche participates in a music therapy lesson with her mentors Maria participates in an art therapy lesson with her mentors Seth participates in an art therapy lesson with his mentors. Faculty and staff mingle with EDGE students at a shower hosted by the first lady of the university.

Alum Reflects on Student Teacher Placement in Thailand

Naomi in Thailand

Naomi Pietenpol is a 2015 mathematics alum with a teacher licensure, who spent eight weeks in Thailand for her student teaching placement. Naomi worked in the Grace International School there and took some time to share a little about her experience.

I don’t think I’ll ever make it through another day without thinking about my international student teaching experience. The community that I was welcomed into was beautiful, godly, loving, encouraging and challenging.

I worked with students from all over the world, yes, but that’s not what made them so great; they were just great kids who made a point of telling me funny stories and saying ‘hi’ in the halls. Because of the nature of the ex-pat community I was a part of, I would see my students as I biked to the market and ran to grab lunch, and I loved every time I got to see one of them. I got to go to church with them, sit in on their Bible studies and live life with them a bit.

The co-op teacher I worked with had so much experience, and from him I learned how to teach math well — those tips and tricks that make the content more accessible to students, the kind of things you usually only find out five years into it. He and the rest of the staff were patient and encouraging, and I loved being invited into their homes for meals and watching their adorable little kids so they could have a night out, or being taken along on adventures.

Families and friends took me on adventures, and I got to see places that usually reside on postcards and in dreams. I stayed with families that made me feel like family and I learned so much about the world, relationships and the Lord just from their stories. If you’re thinking of going overseas for student teaching, know that it will be a lot of transition and good-byes that are hard, but also know that it will be an amazing experience full of beautiful sights and people.

My motto was “just do it,” and it served me well. Take every opportunity to be among the local people and the people of the school, to see beautiful things, to listen to stories and make new friends; take every chance to serve and to learn, even though you’re supposed to be the one teaching.

Naomi has accepted a position teaching middle school math at Parnassus Preparatory School in Minnesota, which is based on a classical education model.