Investing in the Future of Public Relations: UTA PRSSA Launches Diversity Fund

Adapted Diversity Fund Graphic courtesy of Chelsea Akpan, a UTA alumna.

The events from the last few years that have caused outrage and called for social justice serve as a wakeup call to everyone.

This past summer when the entire country witnessed the unjust killing of George Floyd and social movements took center stage, the University of Texas at Arlington’s PRSSA Chapter discussed ways it could impact diversity in public relations and ensure that all students had an equal opportunity for mentorship and professional development.

As a result, the UTA PRSSA Diversity Fund was born.

The fund became our Chapter’s first-ever diversity, equity and inclusion initiative. It aimed to remove financial barriers that some Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) face when wanting to become a PRSSA member and to encourage diversity in the field of public relations.

UTA PRSSA set a goal to fund five student memberships with the help of donations in the first three months of the initiative’s launch, which meant raising $375.

We reached out to our local network of public relations professionals and agencies in Dallas-Fort Worth and pitched our initiative and its importance. However, we were not expecting the overwhelming response that came after the requests.

Last fall we raised three times as much as our original goal and are currently still receiving responses and contributions. Thanks to the sponsorship from the agencies, we provided six students of color with a membership to PRSSA.

What helped strengthen our initiative was its urgency. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of public relations remains largely underrepresented, with 91% of public relations managers and about 83% of public relations specialists being white.

We also highlighted the value that came from investing in a student from UTA, which is ranked fifth in the nation for highest undergraduate ethnic diversity — the takeaway being that our classrooms are the future of public relations.

UTA PRSSA, like other Chapters, operates with a mission to serve its members by enhancing their knowledge in public relations and providing access to experts and leaders in the field. As members and leaders of this organization, we understand that a PRSSA membership opens doors to networking opportunities, jobs, scholarships and other professional resources.

What UTA PRSSA challenged itself with this summer was to consider in what ways were we failing to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. We asked ourselves what could potentially be keeping students from getting involved with our organization, and considered how one’s socioeconomic status is closely intertwined with race and ethnicity in the United States.

Businesses, organizations and individuals alike are in a time of reflection. With our Diversity Fund now established, our Chapter encourages other PRSSA Chapters and leaders from the field to take the time to look inward and ask themselves how they are ensuring equal opportunities within their organization.

Approach this question with honest intentions and know that while you see more organizations and businesses approaching diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, this is not a momentary trend. We all can make a commitment to research and learn, become an advocate and make a change.

Rocio Hernandez is a public relations and advertising senior at the University of Texas at Arlington who will graduate in May 2021. She currently serves as UTA’s PRSSA Chapter president and has been a PRSSA member for three years. She has intentionally spent much of her college career working as a journalist and networking among journalists in hopes of becoming a better public relations professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Headshot photo courtesy of Mike Gibson Photo

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