BU’s 2024 PRRSA recap

Students gather in Boston University’s Photonics Building to listen to Edward Ruddy speak. Photo Courtesy of Delia Rune/BU News Service.

By Delia Rune

Boston University News Service

On Saturday, February 24, Boston University’s PRRSA hosted the 17th annual Northeast District Conference. The event began at 8 A.M., and students from across schools in the Northeast traveled to attend. The conference featured public relations professionals such as Ernie W. Knewitz, vice president of communications & public affairs at Johnson & Johnson, and Briana Curran, vice president of corporate communications and public relations for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Some speakers, such as Edward Ruddy, the senior VP at Sloane & Company, are also COM alums who attended this conference during their time at BU. Ruddy led a talk titled “Corporate Communications Beyond Buzzwords,” in which he gave students a helpful overview of the PR industry and provided tips for their first jobs in public relations. He also emphasized to students why PR is so vital to companies.

“No one cares when [PR] is working, but when it’s broken everyone is saying make it go away,” said Ruddy.

For BU’s PRRSA, this conference represents the culmination of almost six months of thoughtful planning. Since September, roughly 35 members of PRRSA have focused their energy on planning and executing this conference. 

In the process of planning this event, the PRRSA has encountered a variety of challenges and obstacles. Cheryl Lai, PRRSA’s director of sponsorship, said that they struggled this year because they had not been given their usual budget from the Student Activities Office (SAO).

“In prior years, the BU Student Activites Office (SAO) has at least given us some budget,” Lai said. “But this year we didn’t have that source of income, so we were really scrambling to look in other places. Because of that we actually have a very impressive list of sponsors.”

Amanda Wu, a senior in COM and the conference coordinator, agreed that organizing the event had sometimes been difficult.

“The hardest part [of this event] is just getting everyone to the same place,” Wu said. “There’s so many things to coordinate, when the speakers are coming, when the catering is coming, etc.”

Despite any challenges PRRSA encountered when planning this event, students seemed impressed with the results and speaker lineup. Students also got valuable opportunities to network and practice real-world skills, such as creating a resume or pitching their ideas. Ethan Wayne, a senior at Northeastern University, said he was particularly impressed with the networking opportunities that the conference offered.

“I’m a graduating senior at Northeastern looking for jobs in public relations,” Wayne said. “So I’m here to network, learn more about specifics within the industry, and hopefully make some connections that I can leverage after I graduate.”

The PRRSA organizers of this event worked to include a diverse set of speakers so that everyone who came to the event would see their interests or backgrounds represented on panels. 

“I think it’s always really insightful to get information from real professionals who are doing the job who are of the same demographic as you,” Lai said. “You feel like your experiences will actually line up.”

BU’s PRRSA conference wrapped up at 6 P.M.,and conference leaders were happy with the outcome of the event. According to Wu, the goal of the conference had been to connect students working in PR and give them new ways of thinking about the industry. She said she felt they succeeded. 

“We wanted everyone to walk out with more ideas about what they want to try in the future. That’s the goal of our conference,” Wu said.

Lai agreed that the conference had successfully connected students with one another and with other PR professionals. She said she hoped that students saw themselves reflected at the conference.

“I think the most important part of this conference is connecting with other people who are either in the same boat as you,” Lai said. “Either as a student or as someone who used to be and is now way out in the world starting PR firms and non-profits.”

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