By Carrie George, Brittney Prather
Humorist, motivational speaker, TV & radio personality, actress, author, blogger and entrepreneur – A women of humor, smarts and ambition. Who is this amazing person?
Her name is Karith Foster.
On Sept. 13, Kent State’s Public Relations Student Society of America, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and student media hosted a successful diversity event featuring Foster.
Inversity > Diversity
In Foster’s Stereotyped 101: An Exploration in Unconscious Bias speech, she emphasized that she didn’t want to have your typical conversation about diversity.
“I think the word ‘diversity’ has been hijacked,” Foster explained.
Instead, she used her own word: Inversity. At this point some of you might be confused and say “Wait..what? That’s not even a word, I’m confused!” But don't worry, just take a breath because an explanation is to come!
Inversity is Foster’s approach to take division out of diversity. She explained that it’s about introspection, understanding your worth, your reality, and where you come from.
This was such an interesting concept because it was something new and fresh. Inversity makes you question what you say and do on a daily basis. It makes you ask yourself, “Am I being inclusive? Am I doing all that I can to alleviate the tensions that exist among our society?”
So how were the students of Kent so lucky to have such an incredible speaker come to the university? Well a round of applause should be awarded to Kent’s very own PRSSA chapter president, Latisha Ellison. Ellison heard Foster speak previously at a national PRSSA conference, and knew that her inspiring message needed to be brought back to Kent as soon as possible.
Ellison said Foster’s speech at the conference both touched her and made her laugh, and she wanted others to have that same experience.
“We are always trying to work on our diversity and inclusion, and it’s not always easy,” Ellison said. “[Foster] is the perfect person to keep us moving forward."
Francesca Barrett, sophomore public relations major and treasurer of PRSSA Kent, researched Foster before attending the event.
“She’s funny as heck,” Barrett said. “She really puts life in perspective.”
“I rely on humor as not only a mode of communication, but as a coping mechanism,” - Karith Foster
“I think that is a big thing in life: finding humor from pain,” Foster said.
Foster also uses comedy to spread positivity, and added that she would never use her comedy to spread negativity about people.
All you need to do is C.A.R.E! What does this mean? Foster explained that the goal of the program was to have students C.A.R.E., an acronym that stands for conscious empathy, active listening, responsible reactions and environmental awareness.
Foster asked the audience: “Are you reaching out to students who are different to you, or are you staying in your own little bubble because it’s safe?”
By Brenna Parker
Media diversity and advocacy for marginalized groups was the subject of the PRSSA Kent and JMC Conversation "Breaking Down Barriers." The panel led by Traci Williams, a lecturer in the Department of JMC featured panelists Shanice Dunning, a reporter for Cleveland 19 News and a Kent State graduate; Lorraine Schuchart, founder and CEO of Prosper for Purpose; and Amanda Leu, the coordinator for the CCI Office of Academic Diversity Outreach.
PRSSA Kent collaborated with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication to continue the conversation of diversity and inclusion. The event touched on the difference between cultural capacity and cultural confidence. Students viewed controversial commercials including Pepsi's commercial featuring Kendall Jenner and discussed the need for storytelling for these minoritized groups.
By Hanna Moore
Movie fans and public relations students gathered in Room 213 Franklin Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 2 to hear from Emily Benedict, publicity manager for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Benedict said she originally wanted to go into journalism and was always interested in entertainment. When she started her career, she lived in London and worked as a copywriter and a researcher at an agency. Benedict also worked for the Academy of Country Music, where she mostly worked on social media.
When she made the transition to public relations, Benedict said it was a struggle because she was a 23-year-old intern working with younger student who had taken public relations classes.
When asked about her career at the Academy, Benedict said that every day is pretty amazing and that the first time working at the Oscars was really cool. Her favorite experience was being able to sit in on Adele's rehearsal for "Skyfall."
Benedict has had various other unique career opportunities, including working the press for the final Harry Potter movie premiere and escorting Barbara Streisand down the red carpet for a Clinton Foundation event.
So far, Benedict says that "Oscars So White" has been the biggest crisis she has faced in her career. She said that she went back to the principles she learned in her crisis communications class and used the RACE formula when helping the Academy respond to the controversy.
Benedict is currently working with the Academy on building the Academy Museum in Los Angeles, which she hopes will become a destination for movie fans around the world.
Her advice for students was to always network and stay in contact with people you meet at your internships and jobs. When applying for internships and careers, Benedict said to show you have passion for the position and include a spark of research or interest instead of sending a generic resume or cover letter.
Eventually, Benedict says she wants to move up in her career to supervise and lead strategy for a team.
By Hanna Moore
PRSSA Kent members participated in Skype meeting with Sruti Ramadugu, Communications Advisor at USAID in Washington, D.C. Ramadugu has experience working in the public sector with Lean In DC, First Lady Michelle Obama's Let Girls Learn Initiative, the Obama presidential campaign and internships with Senator Sherrod Brown.
Even though Ramadugu works in communications today, she was originally interested in policy. She said she hopes to go to business school get her master's degree and continue working in the field of gender equality and women's empowerment. Below is some advice that she gave to PRSSA Kent's members:
Network with alumni.
Ramadugu encouraged us to use the Kent State alumni network because if there is a specific city or state we want to work in, there is probably an alumnus who can help connect us to a job there. When asked about how she was able to leave Northeast Ohio, she said, "Ohio is a state, it's not a prison."
Gain a range of experiences.
Ramadugu first got involved with Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2008 when she was in high school. From there, she gained more experienced and went on to complete 12 internships in college, including some with Senator Sherrod Brown, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MSNBC.
A typical day for Ramadugu at Let Girls Learn involves "a lot of writing." She shared that she was working with colleagues in other countries in preparation for the International Day of the Girl, which was Oct. 11.
Pursue leadership opportunities.
Ramadugu also shared that she and some of her female friends were inspired by Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, a book written by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg. They viewed this book into a "curriculum" that could be used to help more women gain leadership positions. Ramadugu is now the executive director of Lean In DC, where she built partnerships with local companies and organizations to develop events and opportunities to empower women to pursue leadership opportunities.
Become an expert.
Ramadugu offered advice for students who want to pursue a career in public affairs, saying that it is better to become an expert in one area, so you can become really familiar with it. She said that in D.C., a master's degree in communications is less necessary because relationships and experience are more important. She encouraged us to keep in contact with people we meet at internships and jobs because they can help connect you with other opportunities.
By Hanna Moore
For first meeting of the semester, we heard from new PRKent faculty member Cheryl Ann Lambert, Ph.D., who spoke to us about how public relations is portrayed in the media. Lambert received a bachelor's degree in English, a master's degree in journalism and a doctorate degree in public relations. She served as an editor for five years at a Chilton Publishing Company trade magazine and worked in corporate public relations at Sears, Roebuck and Co. Lambert then went on to work as an assistant professor at Boston University before joining Kent State's faculty this fall.
Dr. Lambert discussed the negative portrayals of public relations in society. She said, "If you believe that public relations is illegal, immoral and unethical, you're in the wrong major. People in PR don't think that." Dr. Lambert explained that the best way we, as students and soon-to-be public relations professionals can combat these stereotypes is by acting professional and leading by example.
Dr. Lambert addressed some depictions of public relations in popular culture, saying that even though Scandal sometimes gives the public relations profession a bad reputation, she is still a huge fan of Olivia Pope and Judy Smith, the real-life woman who inspired the show. She said that even though some parts of the show accurately depict crisis communications, obviously Smith was not really covering up murders or having an affair with the President in real life. Dr. Lambert also discussed Samantha Jones, who played a publicist on Sex and the City. She said that Jones perpetuated the stereotypes that female public relations professionals only partied and used their bodies to get new clients. As for which public relations professionals in movies accurately depict public relations, Dr. Lambert referenced Kristen Wiig's character in The Martian and Jason Bateman's character in Hancock. Both of these characters actually showed what public relations professionals do in their careers and were shown in a positive light, Lambert said.