GVPRSSA Wins Top National PRSSA Chapter Award for Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity Efforts

At the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) International Conference in October, the Grand Valley Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (GVPRSSA) won the Dr. F.H. Teahan Award for Chapter Diversity, recognizing outstanding commitment to diversity within the PRSSA Chapter. 

The definition of diversity is broad. PRSSA embraces all individuals, regardless of background, culture, education, major, age, disability, gender, and sexual orientation. PRSSA recognizes the importance of different experiences, perspectives, and voices in making a viable Society that aids the profession. Initiatives like the Dr. F.H. Teahan Chapter Diversity Award encourages Chapters to seek diversity among its leaders and members through programming and other chapter activities.

GVPRSSA won the award for its commitment to supporting diverse communities. This includes race and gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, and ability. In 2017-2018 President Bri Olson kicked off a diversity, equity, and inclusion Chapter initiative that began with primary research about chapter members and culminated with a Teach-In program with adviser Dr. Adrienne Wallace and student member Trevor Bryan, called Intentional Inclusion: How to Improve Your Student Organization’s Efforts for Inclusion in an effort to use intentional and strategic efforts to improve membership and forge partnerships with other organizations to improve member diversity, inclusion, and equity experiences. 

Since those initial efforts, GVPRSSA leadership has built on and annually reviewed their effort to improve membership outcomes in all areas of diversity where GVPRSSA may fall short and partners with external organizations to offer a more robust experience to and for members. In the 2019-2020 school year, the GVPRSSA chapter and student-run firm, GrandPR, lobbied to win host-duties for CreateAthon, a national nonprofit that coordinates marathon-style campaign events for national firms, and won partnership status. They then took steps to support nonprofit organizations with marginalized populations with free integrated communications campaigns, as well as organized fundraisers and volunteer opportunities for the membership. 

During last year’s CreateAthon, their clients were Grand Rapids Trans Foundation, Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan, Be A Rose, Arbor Circle, Hope Lodge, and Camp Casey. Additionally, they partnered with diverse organizations on campus, like the Asian Student Union

GVPRSSA also attends and promotes diversity and equity workshops on campus while partnering with local organizations like HQ Runaway and Homeless Youth Drop-in Center, Kids’ Food Basket, and the Ronald McDonald House. For the second year in a row, GVPRSSA committed to an ongoing partnership and fundraiser for Be A Rose, a local nonprofit that works to provide feminine hygiene products to women in need.

“The field of public relations is predominantly white and predominantly female, just like our university. It would be unfair and unjust to continue nurturing the status quo,” said Dr. Adrienne Wallace, Assistant Professor Advertising and Public Relations, GVPRSSA Adviser. “To improve representation in the United States PR industry, we need to make changes at the student-level to equip and improve student professional outcomes related to inclusion and equity. If we continue this trajectory, the pay and equity gaps will continue to widen to the detriment of our profession. Not to mention, we are all better when diversity and inclusion efforts are embraced. I’m not only talking about this idea of “checking the box” but rather really understanding and celebrating what each other has to bring to the table. Anything less than this is unacceptable. We have a long way to go in our student group – but results don’t come overnight. I’m proud of this group for being self-aware and recognizing our shortcomings, to right those wrongs.” 

Recruiting a diverse membership is always at the front of mind with GVPRSSA leadership. Following the Black Lives Matter social justice events of this past summer, the chapter committed to an initiative to ensure that their programming was 100 percent representative of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Additionally, they have secured virtual agency tours that feature BIPOC-led agencies. From this commitment, Vice President of Programming Samantha Stoddard and faculty adviser Dr. Adrienne Wallace created the Pacesetter Award-winning national initiative called PRSSA REIMAGINED. This programming collaborative in partnership with seven other PRSSA Chapters (Kennesaw State University, American University, West Texas A&M University, University of Memphis, University of Arizona, Samford University, and Fresno State University) ensures that national programming focused on inclusion is available to all PRSSA chapters during the COVID era where securing speakers virtually can benefit many chapters at the same time. Each program has netted around 100 students and faculty advisers from various PRSSA chapters across the United States.  

Caption: PRSSA REIMAGINED: Kennesaw State hosts a panel on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (above). Guests and Facebook event image (below).

GVPRSSA accomplished other items, such as taking on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of Grand Rapids as a pro-bono client of GrandPR. They are also the Firm of Record for the 5th Anniversary of the National Millennial Gen Z group and have consistently continued their efforts to partner with ethnically diverse organizations on campus like the Latino and Asian Student Unions.

“As a chapter, we know that we have more to work on and room to grow in terms of diversity, and we’re not stopping our efforts as a result of winning an award,” Allison Canter, GVPRSSA President. “We are looking to instate a Diversity and Inclusion chair onto our PRSSA Eboard next semester and are currently improving our Chapter Diversity Initiative as we put concrete measures into place. We feel it is essential to do the work first.”

The GVPRSSA plans to continue its 100 percent BIPOC programming and agency initiative in the future and will continue to assure the success, comfort, and safety of diverse communities on our campus and in their community. 

The PRSSA chapter at Grand Valley is a national award-winning chapter that aims to move the needle each and every year. Some of their recent accomplishments include:

  • PRSSA National Star Chapter Award (2012-2020)
  • PRSSA National Pacesetter Award (2020)
  • PRSSA National Two Gold Key Award Winners (Emily Gagnon, Delaney MacKenzie – 2020)
  • PRSSA National Adviser of the Year Award to chapter faculty adviser, Dr. Adrienne Wallace (2019)
  • PRSSA Teahan Award National PRSA/PRSSA Relationship of the Year (2019)
  • PRSSA Teahan Award National University Service of the Year (2019)
  • WMPRSA (2019) PRoof Gold Award for “Events and Observances longer than 7 days” GrandPR’s “Sawyer’s Day” campaign.
  • WMPRSA (2019) Gold Award for “Events and Observances longer than 7 days” from GrandPR’s “Timeless Ten” campaign.
  • WMPRSA (2019) PRoof Professional of the Year Award to chapter faculty adviser, Dr. Adrienne Wallace 
  • WMPRSA (2019) PRoof Gold Award for “Podcast Tactic” for the PR Hangover Podcast  
  • WMPRSA (2019) PRoof “Student of the Year” Trevor Bryant
  • WMPRSA PRoof (2019) “Newcomer of the Year” Sean Billisitz (2019 GVPRSSA alum)
  • PRSSA National Pacesetter Award (2018)
  • GVSU Student Life Outstanding Adviser of the Year, Dr. Adrienne Wallace (PRSSA/GrandPR – 2018)
  • PRSSA National Bateman Case Study Competition Honorable Mention (2017)
  • PRSSA National Gold Key Award Winners (Daltyn Little – 2017)
  • PRSSA National Two-Time Pacesetter Award (2017)
  • Top-10 PR Podcast for PR Hangover (2017)
  • PRSSA National Regional Conference Host (2017)
  • PRSSA National “Best Campaign” Award GrandPR (2016)
  • GVSU Student Life Outstanding Adviser of the Year, Dr. Adrienne Wallace (PRSSA/GrandPR – 2016)
  • PRSSA National – Michigan Leadership Conference Host (2015)

Grand Valley State University Advertising and Public Relations Alumnae Recognized with National Public Relations Award

Advertising and Public Relations alumnae, Emily Gagnon and Delaney MacKenzie.

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Advertising and Public Relations alumnae, Emily Gagnon and Delaney MacKenzie, were awarded the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation’s National Gold Key Award.

The National Gold Key Award recognizes outstanding Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) members for their high-level academic achievement and leadership in the organization. It is widely known as the highest level of individual honor by PRSSA. GVSU is home to GVPRSSA, a chapter of the national organization, PRSSA. 

Delaney Mackenzie, former president of GVPRSSA, and Emily Gagnon, former CEO of GrandPR, the student-led nationally affiliated integrated communications firm – a program of GVPRSSA, led their chapter to be recognized locally and nationally throughout their term. During their tenure, GVPRSSA received three Teahan Awards, three student life awards, and two pacesetter awards for exceptional projects. Additionally, the chapter was named a Star Chapter for the eighth consecutive year under their leadership.  

“Delaney is a collaboration genius, juggling not only multiple projects but multiple roles in projects, not just as a leader but also as a follower,” assistant professor of advertising and public relations in the School of Communications and GVPRSSA adviser, Dr. Adrienne Wallace, said. “This signals to me a maturation beyond most in her age-group. It’s tough to be the leader of a successful group and then turn around to be the follower in another capacity, but at any rate, she shines.”

Along with the awards and honors MacKenzie received, she surpassed the requirements to be honored with the National Gold Key during her time as a student at GVSU. MacKenzie served as President of GVPRSSA and was also part of the Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC), which secured 4th place nationally at GVSU. She maintained an active relationship with GVPRSSA’s parent chapter, West Michigan Public Relations Society of America (WMPRSA), served on the executive board of GrandPR, and maintained two internships, all while working a part-time job to fund her college expenses. 

“This is beyond humbling,” MacKenzie said, “I must, of course, credit the Grand Valley State University PRSSA chapter, Advertising and Public Relations program and my outstanding advisor, and friend, Dr. Adrienne Wallace. Without whom I wouldn’t have been able to attain the levels of success I did.”

Gagnon displayed her commitment to GVPRSSA early on in her undergraduate career by becoming a member of Grand Valley State University’s student-run public relations firm, GrandPR, as a sophomore. By her senior year, she was elected CEO of GrandPR, where she managed the twelve-client roster and the day-to-day activities of 33 student associates. During her involvement in GVPRSSA, Gagnon worked at numerous internships, most notably Experience Grand Rapids and Steelcase. She simultaneously served as an Election Inspector for Georgetown Township for five years fulfilling all roles, including Chairperson. She was the Marketing Coordinator for TEDxGVSU, where she managed the social media platforms and connected the greater TED community intimately with GVSU and like MacKenzie, was part of the Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC)

Gagnon’s former advisor, Dr. Wallace, shared, “Emily exemplifies what it means to blend academic achievement and leadership efficacy while making significant contributions to the campus, her community, PRSSA, PRSA and beyond. Emily’s commitment to her work, drive for success, and natural leadership ability makes for a bright future not only personally, but for the communications community at large.” 

Both Gagnon and MacKenzie continue their involvement in the West Michigan PRSA chapter, which serves the professional communications community. MacKenzie, currently a Communications Associate for 8THIRTYFOUR, says she is thankful to receive this honor alongside her colleague Emily. Currently, a Digital Marketing Specialist at LEAD Marketing Agency, Gagnon, is “excited to stay connected as an alum and be a resource for future GVSU Ad & PR students.” 

GVPRSSA has had but one other PRSA Foundation National Gold Key Award winner, Jaclyn Ermoyan, was awarded the honor in 2017. Gagnon and MacKenzie will be celebrated at the Public Relations Society of America International Conference in October. 

Adrienne Wallace Earns AEJMC Kopenhaver Center Fellowship to Support Teaching, Research, & Leadership

Advertising and public relations faculty member Dr. Adrienne A. Wallace was named a 2020 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Kopenhaver Center Fellow. This fellowship will afford training, networking, research support, and mentorship for Dr. Wallace within a diverse cohort of 25 other junior women faculty fellows from colleges and university across the United States. AEJMC is a nonprofit organization serving more than 3,700 members worldwide. 

In her essay application, Dr. Wallace asserts that “Higher ed is at a crossroads of sorts, especially during a time made increasingly more volatile with the introduction of new variables like COVID-19 which is negatively impacting female researchers at higher rates than their male counterparts. While Kopenhaver Center reports have concluded that women have made few advancements between 2016 and 2018 in the workplace moving ahead in leadership roles in their professions, I don’t think that means that women have eclipsed the possibility of a balanced point of view, fairness, or accurate representation in society; instead I believe that women, like me provide uniquely democratic, communal, collaborative, and inclusive leadership traits that can propel the academy forward, particularly in times that are unpredictable and unchartered, like we find ourselves in now.”

The fellowship award includes a workshop pre-conference in August, “Women Faculty Moving Forward: 100 Years from Suffrage to Academic Leadership,” which is specifically designed to assist new assistant professors on the tenure track navigate success within the academy with the hope of inspiring the female leaders of tomorrow. The workshop features top women leaders, researchers, and professors from communication-related major programs in higher education.

The Kopenhaver Center at Florida International University was founded by Dr. Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver, dean emeritus and professor in 2012 to empower both women professionals and academics in all the fields of communication to develop visionaries and leaders who can make a difference in their communities and their profession.

In addition to the training and networking at this workshop, Kopenhaver Center Fellows, will be invited to take part in activities of both the AEJMC Commission on the Status of Women and the Kopenhaver Center during the year.

This year Dr. Wallace will also be presenting at the AEJMC conference on:

  • “Shifting the Paradigm: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Communication Education.” Named 2020 Top 25 AEJMC GIFT Award.
  • “What It Really Takes: Revealing the Shared Challenges in PRSSA Faculty Advising.” Named Top Teaching Paper Award for the Public Relations Division of Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) 2020 Conference.
  • “From Silicon Valley Virtual Communities to Trump Twitter Networks: Political Social Networks Visualized.”

Dr. Wallace teaches mostly in the public relations emphasis of the advertising and public relations major program (CAP 105, 220, 494, 495), is the internship coordinator for the major, and advises the award-winning public relations firm, GrandPR, plus Grand Valley State’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (GVPRSSA). You can contact her at: wallacad[at]gvsu[dot]edu

SoC in the News 2017 & 2018



GVSU was mentioned in an article in PRWeek on student-run Ad/PR agencies. Alumnus and former GrandPR CEO Daltyn Terpstra was featured prominently in the article, which you can read here.



The inaugural event of the Robert Mayberry Comm-Unity Series was a huge success and received significant media coverage. Read/watch more about it at these links:

Thanks to Melba Vélez Ortiz, Adrienne Wallace, Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, and Yasmin Gopal for their work to make this event happen!

Multimedia journalism professor Jeff Kelly Lowenstein interviews IndyStar reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski at the inaugural event of the Robert Mayberry Comm-Unity Series.
Photo by Vanessa Lansdale



Adrienne Wallace, along with GVSU PRSSA chapter president Trevor Bryan, presented a session at GVSU’s Teach-In on November 8. An article about their presentation, “Intentional Inclusion: How to Improve Your Student Organization’s Efforts for Inclusion,” was featured on the national PRSSA website.