By Jasmine Reed
Most recently, I was selected along with three other fellow Auburn University students, to represent its Public Relations program at the very first Plank Center Challenge for Emerging Leaders. This two-day intensive workshop at the University of Alabama was presented by the Plank Center and several sponsors. It was jam packed with several keynote speakers, professional education and advancement opportunities and fellowship with peers from various surrounding universities.
Prior to the official meeting in early February, student participants were nominated by their respective universities, completed a brief application then notified through email of their acceptance to participate. From there, we received various correspondences from Dr. Bruce Berger of University of Alabama, detailing pertinent information in regards to the workshop. One of those emails included a list of team assignments and a case study with instructions on what was expected to be complete before the workshop.
Now, like many people, I’m not the biggest fan of group work. I know at times it’s necessary, but I’d rather just complete whatever assignment it is on my own and call it a day. So, needless to say, I was slightly wary about conducting a group assignment….remotely…with people that I had never met before. However, after the commencement of the workshop, I’d have to say I lucked out with a pretty amazing group.
Before our official meeting, things did start off a little awkward when we communicated through Google Hangout sessions and GroupMe. We were polite, but you could tell we were all a little skeptical and just trying to get a feel for each other. But, once we had the initial group meeting to discuss the case study at the workshop, it all came together. We just clicked! Everyone’s voice was being heard, there was encouragement in difference of opinions and we praised each other for good ideas. It honestly made me wish my groups back at school were that awesome. Red Team will always hold a special place in my heart.
Over the course of the two-day workshop, along with several group sessions dealing with the case study analysis, we had different sessions dedicated to our professional and leadership development and advancement. Dr. Bruce Berger, Dr. Peter Hammerschmidt, and Daniel O’Donnell conducted these sessions. From assessing what areas in leadership we’re weak and strong in to learning vital information about financial communications, the amount of knowledge we gained was priceless.
The knowledge kept coming as we got the opportunity to hear from several guest speakers during our lunch and dinner breaks. Some of them were either Plank Center board members, big supporters of the Plank Center, or sponsors of the workshop. There was Alicia Thompson, APR, GM of Edelman Atlanta; Tony Cervone, Senior VP of General Motors Company; Aerial Ellis, entrepreneur and PR professor at Lipscomb University and Bill Heyman of Heyman Associates. Each speaker brought their own unique stories and experiences and had a lot of wisdom to offer in all aspects. Getting to hear from them was a real treat.
The last day of the workshop was pretty big. We got the opportunity to present our analysis of the case study before a panel of judges and several members of the Plank Center board. Each group offered new perspectives with fresh, creative ideas. I was truly impressed with the talent in that room and honored to be a part of it. Even though my group didn’t win the Betsy Plank award, I still gained a lot of knowledge and made some valuable connections. That was the real reward.
Overall, this was such an amazing and humbling experience. What I learn in the classroom doesn’t begin to compare to the hands-on experience I got from participating in this. I will cherish this opportunity for the rest of my life and look forward to taking the industry by storm, alongside such bright individuals.
Jasmine Reed is a senior at Auburn University, majoring in Public Relations with a minor in Marketing. Her career interests include: social media management, event planning, digital media analyst and more. She also hopes to apply her passion for beauty and women empowerment throughout her professional career. You can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org