Friday, May 27, 2011

Does Leadership Development Occur During Participation in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA)?

On Friday, May 21, 2011, I graduated from the University of San Francisco with a doctorate in education (Ed.D.). My dissertation explored leadership development in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Here's an overview of that work; please note that it's written for an academic (as opposed to general) audience. 

Go here to view a copy of my dissertation. 

Go here to view a journal article based on my dissertation. 

Undergraduate Student Perceptions of Affiliate Organization Contributions to What They Learn about Leadership While Serving as Officers in Professionally Oriented Clubs


Organizations that sponsor professionally oriented undergraduate clubs claim to offer advantages to participants, yet the role they play in providing exposure to professional learning experiences and preparing students for working life has received scant attention. What remains unexplored are efforts to guide the professional and leadership development of undergraduates who assume positions as officers in university-affiliated chapters. The investigation of such efforts might consider the role of contextual factors given their importance in shaping student learning experiences (Rubin, Bommer, & Baldwin, 2002), especially whether a student group is affiliated with an organization outside the university. This affiliate relationship may provide access to resources often unavailable on university campuses (Peltier, Scovoti, & Pointer, 2008).

This study explored undergraduate student perceptions of the contributions of an affiliate relationship to what they learn about leadership while serving as officers in a professionally oriented club. It focused on a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter at a public state university in Northern California and its Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) affiliate. A case study framework was employed, using qualitative research data collection techniques (i.e., 12 interviews, observation of six events, and review of documents).

Study results indicated that PRSSA, through optional resources, advice, and counsel, aimed to help PRSSA chapter officers fulfill individual responsibilities and learn about leadership. Their intent was to foster a view of leadership that encouraged support of the organization; its parent, PRSA; and the public relations profession as a whole. In turn, PRSSA chapter officers pursued a leadership purpose to help members learn about the public relations profession and find positions in the field. These officers derived value from affiliate organization activities, and considered what they learned vital to individual career development and to fulfill their leadership purpose. Yet this learning did not extend to officer responsibilities or leadership; for those areas, students looked to each other and predecessors for direction on how to serve as PRSSA leaders. The study concluded that leadership development occurred among PRSSA students, a phenomenon unexplored in previous literature.

Please let me know if you have questions and/or would like further information on my work.

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