Missouri School of Journalism launches PRSSA chapter, opening up new opportunities for strategic communication students


By Austin Fitzgerald

COLUMBIA, Mo. (Jan. 24, 2023) — The Missouri School of Journalism is now home to a campus chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which offers educational and professional benefits to more than 7,000 public relations students in the U.S. and South America. Representing the School of Journalism’s commitment to high academic standards and a cutting-edge curriculum in strategic communication, the formation of the chapter further elevates the School’s profile on the national stage while creating more opportunities for students.

“Good strategic communication is about making a connection with the audience, but the School’s new PRSSA chapter allows students to make connections of another kind: the kind that will help jumpstart their careers in the industry,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism. “In getting their work in front of seasoned professionals and meeting other passionate peers, PRSSA members can build important relationships while putting the Missouri Method into practice.”

PRSSA is the student-focused wing of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), which was founded in 1947 and offers professional development and accreditation for public relations professionals. Given the organization’s standing in the industry, bringing a chapter to Mizzou is a key part of gaining further national recognition for the School’s strategic communication program and its students, according to Professor Jon Stemmle.

“The contests, scholarships, student events and conferences allow for a lot of networking and collaborative opportunities,” Stemmle said. “It’s another big step for the program.”

It’s a step Stemmle has envisioned for more than a decade and began to pursue in earnest in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on the process. In the interim, he started a PR club with an executive board and about 30 students involved, presenting the perfect foundation for PRSSA membership when the weight of the pandemic began to lessen (of course, the club didn’t wait for PRSSA membership to get started — last year, they carried out a pro bono promotional campaign for Horses4Heroes, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit that provides therapeutic horse rides to current and former service members and others).

“Good strategic communication is about making a connection with the audience, but the School’s new PRSSA chapter allows students to make connections of another kind: the kind that will help jumpstart their careers in the industry.”

David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism

As co-director of MOJO Ad, the School’s student-staffed ad agency focused on the youth and young adult market, Stemmle was no stranger to making something on the scale of a PRSSA chapter happen, and he knew the effort needed an extra push. To get things moving, he enlisted the help of Assistant Professor Luke Capizzo, who joined the School at the beginning of the 2022 fall semester. A PRSA member, Capizzo has been involved in a total of four different chapters of the organization over the course of his career.

“My role was largely to capture all the great work that Jon has done and the work of the student leaders over the past few years,” Capizzo said. “I’m excited — this chapter will be a really beneficial experience for the students, and it can also be beneficial to professionals in the industry who get access to good students.”

Indeed, making connections has been an important part of the process from start to finish. Stemmle and Capizzo credited Jill Alexander, PRSSA faculty advisor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, with connecting them to the St. Louis PRSA chapter, a necessary step toward the creation of the Mizzou chapter. That led them to Jacqueline Clark, a Mizzou alum and national board member for PRSA’s Midwest region whose continued passion for her alma mater helped make the process of developing the chapter a painless one.

“I told [Stemmle and Capizzo] we’re going to be the best chapter in America,” Clark said. “I’m just amazed at the engagement and enthusiasm in the chapter, and this is just the first rung in the continuum of educational and professional development opportunities that PRSA offers.”

By September, the pieces were in place, and the official approval came during PRSA’s International Conference (ICON) in November. Now, the chapter is looking ahead to competitions, conferences and future pro bono campaigns, opportunities that senior Madalyn Murry — president of the new chapter — plans to take full advantage of.

“When we started PR club last year, I didn’t even know what PRSA was,” Murry said. “Now there are so many opportunities, like the Bateman Case Study Competition and professional development conferences. Students can really get out of this what they put in.”

To learn more about the School of Journalism’s PRSSA chapter or to get involved, contact Jon Stemmle at stemmlej@missouri.edu or Luke Capizzo at capizzol@missouri.edu.

Updated: January 23, 2023

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