District Conference Recap: Next Gen: Smashing Precedents (University of Rhode Island 2021)

This article is part of our 2021 District Conference coverage series. For more information on PRSSA District Conferences, click here.

For the first time in the Chapter’s history, University of Rhode Island PRSSA was able to host a District Conference. This virtual conference, titled “Next Gen: Smashing Precedents,” took place on Friday, March 12 and Saturday, March 13 via Zoom. With about 40 participants spanning two days, the conference was able to achieve its goal of empowering the next generation of public relations practitioners while also helping them see their worth, prioritize their values and expand their network.

The conference consisted of fourteen speakers from various disciplines of the public relations realm, from content creation at HBO to nonprofit public relations at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Attendees were able to attend the breakout sessions that most appealed to their desired public relations track. The young professionals panel on March 13 was the perfect way to combine the lessons learned throughout the course of the conference while allowing attendees to expand their knowledge by asking specific questions. Opening keynote speakers Shelley Spector and Brandi Boatner were the stars of the show that left all attendees with a sense of hope for the future.

Public relations icon Shelley Spector, founder of The Museum of Public Relations and Spector PR, kicked off the conference on Friday, March 12. Her session, “Going Beyond Our Limits,” provided the perfect overview as to what public relations used to be versus what it has evolved into. Spector touched on topics ranging from public relations for social causes, the female pioneers of the once male-dominated industry, and the opportunities in store for the rising generation of professionals. Spector believes that the coming generation of professionals is going to be well prepared for future challenges due to the adaptability and creativity that the generation  has portrayed in light of the pandemic. “This year provided an unbelievable opportunity to pivot,” said Spector. “If you got this far, you succeeded in a year unlike any year in human history.”

Brandi Boatner, manager, digital and advocacy communications at IBM, and adoringly known as the “Beyoncé of the Business World,” further inspired the coming generation by acknowledging the challenges they have overcome in the past year. Her session, “Falters, Filters and Failure: Freeing and Being Your Authentic Self in the Workplace (and Everywhere Else),” demonstrated the importance of authenticity, values and confidence in the workplace. Boatner also smashed stereotypes surrounding society’s least favorite f-word: failure. “Failure needs to be your best friend; you cannot succeed at anything unless you fail,” stated Boatner. “The path to success has failure on it.” Boatner left all attendees with a rejuvenated sense of self-worth and excitement for  the impact this next generation will have on the industry.

Overall, “Next Gen: Smashing Precedents” was a successful District Conference that connected PRSSA students across the country with highbrow professionals as well as other passionate students. It was truly an honor for URI PRSSA to host “Next Gen: Smashing Precedents,” and they  look forward to the success of the District Conferences to come.


Cat Kalogeros is a sophomore communications and public relations double major pursuing double minors in English and writing and rhetoric. She currently serves as the Director of Events and District Conference Coordinator for URI’s Chapter of PRSSA. Outside of PRSSA, Kalogeros is the director of career and personal development for Chi Omega. She aspires to use her public relations skills in the entertainment industry.

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