Embracing Collaboration: Launching the First-Ever Chapter Development Month

It all began with two simple yet powerful words: grow and together. These words didn’t just randomly pop into my mind; they came as a wave of inspiration that I caught just before ICON. These words became a mantra for me, a guiding light toward something greater than me.

When Sankalp Sharma, our esteemed National President, shared the 2023-2024 goal of the PRSSA National Committee was to build community, my heart echoed a passionate, YES! This resonated with my role as the vice president of Chapter development. How could I, in this capacity, create an initiative that not only leverages our invaluable resources but also fosters a spirit of collaboration, a value I hold dear? This is how the concept of Chapter Development Month was conceived.

My journey with PRSSA began during the challenging times of the pandemic. It was a period marked by loneliness and uncertainty as I navigated the early years of adulthood amidst a global crisis. Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” was a soothing companion, but soon, I realized Swift’s melodies alone couldn’t dispel the solitude (even if “all I do is try, try, try.”) 

Serendipity struck when I stumbled upon PRSSA on Instagram. It was perfectly aligned with my career aspirations and academic background, and the community seemed vibrant and welcoming. Taking the initiative, I joined our Chapter at the University of Memphis. It was a decision I mark as pivotal.

As I advanced through the ranks to the executive board, I learned a valuable lesson: while individual effort is commendable, true growth and success come from collaboration. We reached out to neighboring Chapters, like the University of Mississippi PRSSA, and organized joint events. This collaboration was a turning point, shifting my perspective on Chapter development. We began sharing our virtual programs with all PRSSA members, hosted ICON and embraced the concept of growing together. The notion of Chapters as competitors was dispelled; we are all united in our quest for professional and collective advancement.

Reflecting on the past five years, my thoughts are not of individual achievement, but of gratitude. I am so grateful for the professors who advocated for me in spaces where I wasn’t present. I am so thankful for the invaluable opportunities from PRSSA that allow me to collaborate with thousands of students globally. I am so grateful for the new friends I’ve encountered, those who challenge and inspire me to excel, offer unwavering support and embody kindness. I am so thankful to those who, recognizing an opportunity, thought of including me. I am so grateful for the group projects I once complained about, but now understand their value. I am so grateful for my family, who work tirelessly to ensure our lives are abundant.

A group of people standing in a room

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Oakley Weddle leads the Chapter Development session, “Beyond the Handbook: Insights from PRSSA Chapters,” at ICON 2023. Pictured from left to right are Alicia Caracciolo of the University of South Carolina, Yadira Cabrera of Boston University, Bella LoBue of Hofstra University, and Oakley Weddle of University of Memphis/PRSSA National Committee.

PRSSA’s strength lies in its diverse perspectives, ideas and resources. To not collaborate would be a disservice to ourselves and our Chapters. We are at the heart of a thriving, interconnected community, continually evolving and growing.

As we embark on this inaugural Chapter Development month, I encourage you to embrace this opportunity to expand your networks. It will benefit your Chapters and enrich your personal growth.

Feel free to reach out to me for any assistance or questions related to Chapter Development. Don’t be a stranger! vpchapterdev@prsa.org 

Let’s Grow Together, PRSSA!

Oakley Weddle serves on the PRSSA 2023-2024 National Committee as the vice president of Chapter development. In his role, he connects with Chapters to share resources, advice and help them build and grow. He also operates the PRSSA National Community Service Initiative and creates resources and initiatives to grow the Society and help others increase their influence. Oakley served as the Conference Coordinator for the PRSSA 2023 International Conference in Nashville, Tenn. 

In February 2024, he launched PRSSA’s inaugural Chapter Development Month in recognition of the successes and best practices of Chapters and to encourage collaboration amongst students. 

Oakley is a graduate student at The University of Memphis, works part-time at a local technology company and co-founded his late brother’s nonprofit, The PEYitforward Foundation, dedicated to spreading kindness and working together to improve Memphis, Tenn. and surrounding communities. Connect with him on LinkedIn!

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