Being a Student Leader During Quarantine

Alex Horton, UC PRSSA Vice President, Journalism & PR Certificate

5/5/2021

If you had told me at the beginning of my freshman year that my senior year would be entirely remote, I would be completely unable to see my friends whom I had grown extremely close with over those four years and that my final year at UC would conclude by simply shutting my laptop, I don't think I would've believed you. This school year has taken its toll on everyone, students and professors included. Still, the most challenging aspect of this crazy year, for me, has been trying to keep PRSSA alive and well on campus.

I attended my first PRSSA meeting in my sophomore year and had recently changed my major to journalism. The first class I had with this new major happened to be Intro to PR with Autumn Miller. Autumn was one of the best teachers I have had at UC, and her enthusiasm about PR and PRSSA made me want to give the student group a chance. I was instantly hooked. The group was helpful, made me feel welcomed, and inspired me to get involved. To make a long story short, I served in two leadership positions in my three years as a PRSSA member, my first as treasurer and now as Vice President. My experience was amazing, and I was even lucky enough to attend two national PRSSA events across the country for free. That is until this year.

Entering the 2020-21 school year, PRSSA was in a predicament that I am not sure any of our executive members were ready for. The eight of us were all new in our positions; many members had never held leadership positions in a student group in the past. We very quickly understood that this year would be a strange one. There could be no in-person meetings this year (which also meant no pizza every other Thursday!), and there would be no trips to attend. So, we knew the meetings must be virtual, but the obvious question remained, how were we going to get people to care about our group?

One of the most complex parts of the entire process was promoting the meetings. Because students were forced to sit at their computers on Zoom all day, why would they join another hour-long meeting? We constantly brainstormed for new, better, and more intriguing topics but much of that info would come from Google or our student experiences. We needed it to come from a pro.

We bounced a few ideas around and experimented with different virtual meeting styles. Some worked better than others, but what worked best for us were the meetings where we brought in professionals from the field to speak in a virtual panel setting. This seemed to excite students much more than if it were just the exec team, because who am I kidding? We're just students like those in the audience. But the speakers brought experience, advice, and entertaining anecdotes that really captivated our audience and the exec team in a way we didn't think possible in this alternative form. Some of our most exciting speakers included Stephen Mosby, a communication specialist who joined us to discuss diversity in the workplace, and Monique Lachelle, who works for Instagram who spoke on influencer relations.
"The old PowerPoint presentation method becomes extremely boring when that's all people are able to do, said PRSSA President Ryan Johnson. "We wanted to find a way to escape from quarantine's boredom by having engaging speakers."

We saw much greater attendance and engagement with this new virtual style in comparison to our early meeting ideas. This was terrific, but what I thought was so special about my final year with PRSSA was how our group banded together to have a successful year despite the hardships we may have faced. We all had one another's back and would help anyone with any problem they had. It was especially cool to see our optimism grow week after week. We all learned a lot this year and will carry these lessons with us for our entire professional lives.

Though I am sad to be leaving UC and PRSSA, I am incredibly proud of how each member contributed even when they felt like giving up. I know PRSSA is in excellent hands moving forward.