Posted: February 4, 2015, 8:05 p.m.
by Connor Fox.
On this day in 2005, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees established a center to help develop and recognize outstanding performance in the public relations profession and classroom. Its namesake? An honor to UA alumna and pioneer Betsy Plank.
Now, 10 years later, The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations is at the forefront of the public relations industry, serving as an international resource for industry leadership. In addition, it continues to impact the industry through many initiatives, including the annual “Milestones in Mentoring” Gala event, its prestigious fellowships for educators, as well as support for grants and research.
Throughout this year, the Center will celebrate “3,650 days of leadership, 120 months of mentorship, and 10 years of the late Plank’s vision”. A monthly series will also showcase its mission and the array of programs that help accomplish it year in and year out.
“Aspire and be inspired.”
Betsy Plank’s prolific career in the PR industry helped her achieve both national and international acclaim for her work in the corporate and agency sectors. Though her countless awards and recognition distinguished her as the “First Lady” of public relations, Plank’s true passion, and talent, was investing in students.
Upon graduating from UA in 1944, Plank paved the way for what many students now have the opportunity to do through the Plank Center — get connected. Through many opportunities and resources, the Center continues to align its mission with Plank’s Legacy by cultivating leadership in students, as well as within the industry.
One of the most enriching opportunities extended to public relations students at UA is this publication. Under the auspices of the Plank Center, Platform Magazine has been able to offer industry professionals and public relations students alike with relevant, engaging content. Most importantly, it has offered a chance for students to engage with industry professionals and educators from across the country in creating work — an opportunity rarely found in other academic public relations programs. It’s the combined process of brainstorming, researching, writing and editing that forms the incomparable experience for students.
The process in and of itself is highly rewarding, but is also admirable and unique to the Capstone. Tracy Sims, a Plank Center fellow and faculty editor for Platform Magazine, can attest to how students are empowered by their experience.
“Watching students evolve into confident writers with their own voices has been a real pleasure,” Sims said. “These students also hone their research and critical thinking skills while exploring trends and issues in the profession. It’s a win-win situation for them and the magazine.”
This year is a long-awaited opportunity to celebrate the work of the Center and all it has done for the betterment of our industry; its efforts and initiatives continue to inspire generations of public relations professionals. While there are plenty of reasons to do so, let us celebrate one decade of dedication to not only professionals, but also students. Here’s to many more years of the Plank Center’s leadership and guidance to us all.