STORY BY GRACE ROGERS
Drake University will host one of 10 regional conferences for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) this spring.
The conference will give students a chance to hear speakers from a variety of companies and participate in a crisis simulation, where they must work as if they were a company in an emergency.
“We wanted our theme to be more than this ambiguous thing that sounds really cool but isn’t really well implemented,” said Kelly Tafoya, a co-coordinator for the conference and leader of the speaker committee. “We wanted it to literally be what you’re going to come out with. You’re going to come out with a true understanding of how to be adaptable in PR, which is crucial.”
The conference’s theme is “Expect the Unexpected.” While the programming of the conference will be unique, the planning board had other goals.
“Our theme is ‘Expect the Unexpected’ because we want to showcase how great Des Moines is,” said Taylor Rookaird, co-coordinator. “Usually people think Iowa means cornfields and cows, and Des Moines is so great and does not get the respect it deserves. We want to entice them to come to Des Moines and learn about how great it is — kind of the diamond in the rough that we have here — while also learning about innovative brands and learning about how those brands are successful.”
“None of the people that submitted the bid for the conference were from Iowa,” Tafoya said. “I think that’s what made us stand out a bit. We love this state. We love this town. We want to give some of that back, and give Des Moines some of the reputation that it deserves.”
Currently, the board is working to utilize the diverse Drake PR Alumni network to reach individuals at unique companies like Girl Scouts of America, Starbucks and Crocs
While public relations students are excited for the conference, this is a landmark for Drake as a whole.
“This is a huge event for Drake, just because it’s the first time we’ve ever done something of this magnitude,” Rookaird said. “I don’t think a lot of people understand what a big deal this is for our campus.”
“We are such a small school,” Tafoya said. “When I look at some of the other schools that have millions of dollars of journalism facilities and have crazy resources available to them, I realize that we still beat them. We’re CEPR-certified. We have a PRSSA chapter that is really large considering the size of our PR program. We have amazing leadership amongst faculty and students that makes us stand out. I feel like sometimes we are overlooked as a journalism school and as a PR program, and I think that this is our time to shine.”