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Rough start leads to a successful trip

When 14 female members of the University’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) arrived at the Megabus stop in Toledo March 11, they expected a four-hour bus trip to Chicago for networking with public relations practitioners and some free time in the city. What they did not expect was a road trip to Chicago in their professor’s Cadillac and SUV. The women’s plans turned topsy-turvy midday, after they had loaded their luggage and boarded the Megabus at Southwyck Shopping Center. The driver announced that there were mechanical problems with the bus, and two hours later, they still weren’t fixed.’ When the PRSSA members learned they might have to wait until 5:30 to take another bus to Chicago, journalism instructor and PRSSA advisor Julie Hagenbuch took charge. Her mother-in-law helped shuttle everyone to Hagenbuch’s house in Toledo, where arrangements were made to drive one of the girls’ cars and Hagenbuch’s Cadillac and SUV to the windy city. ‘I didn’t want to have us sitting on a bus for six hours when we hadn’t even left the city limits,’ Hagenbuch said. ‘I didn’t really care that [the students] were driving my cars-I was just more concerned about us getting there in a safe and timely manner.’ The rest of the trip stayed truer to Hagenbuch’s original plan. She had contacted several of her University alumni friends working in Chicago, along with the Chicago chapter of the Public Relations Society of America in order to set up meetings, and she was able to organize five conference times. The group met with University alumni working in public relations for the Illinois CPA (Certified Public Accountants) Society, Accenture (a consulting, technology and outsourcing company), and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. The PRSSA members also talked with University alumnus Doug Whitmire, executive producer of the morning show for ABC’s Channel 7 News, and with public relations practitioners at Exelon Corp., one of the nation’s largest electric utilities.’ After hearing about the group’s desire to tour a public relations agency, the Exelon spokespeople helped arrange a meeting with Ketchum, a global public relations agency, Hagenbuch said.’ Discussion topics in the meetings included tips for finding jobs and being marketable in the current economic climate, and the professionals shared stories of their lives in the field of public relations. University alumna Jill Kouri, a global marketing director at Accenture, advised the students to gain real-world experience before applying for jobs, continuously network, differentiate themselves through the job-hunting process and their resumes, and break away from the spoiled, entitled mindset people have about their generation. Kouri also spoke about the importance of dressing professionally, researching prospective employers, being persistent, and emphasizing writing skills and Midwestern roots while applying for jobs. Kouri said working for The BG News in college proved beneficial when she was job-hunting, and she said the students working for the publication are ‘doing a great thing.’ ‘As you start your jobs, you will be grateful for your base at The BG News,’ Kouri said. ‘It was a fantastic foundation.” Whitmire and Melissa Wall, major gifts officer at the Museum of Science and Industry and winner of a Florence and Jesse Currier Young Professional Award in 2008, echoed similar praises about the journalistic experiences they received at the University. ‘What’s great about BG24 is they let the students do everything,’ Whitmire said. ‘If you want to do TV news, join BG24.’ ‘The writing experience I got in school has been invaluable,’ Wall said. ‘The fact that you’re graduating with a journalism degree-thank your lucky stars.’ In addition to sharing advice similar to Kouri’s, Wall critiqued some of the students’ resumes. ‘It’s [been] a really great networking opportunity, especially coming here to the museum,’ said Sara Newell, a junior. ‘Being able to pick [Wall’s] brain and have a professional critique my resume is really helpful.’ Other PRSSA members had good things to say about their Chicago experience. ‘As a junior, it was inspiring and motivating to see that BG alumns were able to move up so high, so fast in a big city,’ Kelcey Brubaker said. ‘I was thinking about going into corporate communications, and some of the professionals gave me more confidence to go into that path,’ said Samantha Johnstone, a senior. ‘They gave me good advice, and they were willing to follow up with us.’ Some follow-up work was done, Hagenbuch said. ‘One of the people that we interviewed ‘hellip; she’s asked for one of the girls’ resumes out of the trip,’ she said. ‘She’s got a job opening in May, and she wants to interview one of the girls on the trip for that.’ Overall, Hagenbuch said she thought the trip was a success.’ ‘It’s a pretty powerful thing when you can shadow the life of someone that you read about in the textbook,’ she said. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

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