Old Dominion public relations students take their spring trip to Philadelphia

    By Brendan O’Hallarn, Faculty Adviser, ODU PRSSA

    One of the real highlights of the year for the public relations club at Old Dominion University, ODU PRSSA, is the annual spring trip.

    Previous chapters of PRSSA have taken trips to Richmond and to Washington, D.C. Last year, 13 students and I visited Charlotte, North Carolina. This year, a group of 14 students and one nervous adviser went to Philadelphia. The trip was a quick one – it is the middle of the semester, after all. But it is such an important bonding experience for members of ODU PRSSA and has inspired several students to seek leadership roles on the club’s Executive Board for next school year.

    The reality is that this trip would not be possible, or it would be a significantly scaled-back version, were it not for the generous support of our parent chapter PRSA Hampton Roads. Each year, the organization provides $750 worth of travel funds to pay for trips like this. That means (thanks to a great hotel discount arranged by our awesome club president Rikki Eskelund) the number of students we could take on the trip doubled. It made for quite an adventure!

    A six-hour drive up Virginia and Maryland’s Eastern Shore meant an arrival at rush hour on Thursday, March 28. On the recommendation of our hotel concierge, we experienced authentic Philly cheesesteaks at Dalessandro’s Steaks – with the added bonus of enjoying the atmosphere surrounded by Phillies fans. The team had won its Opening Day game earlier that afternoon.

    Our “business day” in Philadelphia was Friday, March 29, and we made the most of it. Through contacts with the Philadelphia chapter of PRSA, we visited two downtown PR and marketing firms – Bellevue Communications Group and the Brownstein Group. At both locations, the teams rolled out the red carpet. We saw examples of great work done by the two firms and heard about problems they had solved collaboratively. Our hosts were also extraordinarily gracious in providing advice and encouragement to our students, many of whom are taking the big step into the workforce after graduation in May.

    Between our two tours (and in addition to moving our giant, 15-passenger van out of a tow-away zone) we visited Reading Terminal Market for lunch and some sightseeing. What an amazing place!

    After our second tour, we had a few hours before our evening event, so students scattered in small groups. Some walked to see the Liberty Bell. Others made the short trip to run the “Rocky Steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We fit in like the locals, I’m sure!

    We concluded our very full day with a dinner and mixer with students from the PRSSA chapter at Temple University. Students with that chapter were kind and welcoming, particularly because Temple’s PR students had just hosted a spring conference the week before.

    Dinner ended with professional contact and social media information exchanged, and we invited our hosts to visit Norfolk and Virginia Beach in return next year.

    All in all, we were thrilled with our experience, and our 14 student PR professionals are more excited than ever to launch their careers.

    Thank you for helping make this possible, PRSA Hampton Roads!


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