Belmont Public Relations Celebrates 20th Anniversary

PR student award-winners pose for a photo
College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Belmont Public Relations Celebrates 20th Anniversary

April 11, 2024 | by Nolan Galbreath

Monday, April 8, was a day of reflection and celebration as Belmont’s Public Relations department celebrated its 20-year anniversary with several events throughout the day and culminated in a commemorative dinner that evening. The day-long celebration brought together alumni, students, faculty and staff members to honor the department’s past achievements and share excitement regarding future success.

The inaugural event of the day was a Public Relations Industry Insights panel with alumni Jena Thomas, Aliyah Sheffield, Olivia Blumb and Lucy Walsh. Following the panel was an appreciation lunch, a “Meaningful Connections” speed-networking event for students and the anniversary dinner featuring speeches from prominent PR figures at Belmont and student awards.

2.jpg“Over the years, I’ve shared with students that PR incorporates everything,” said Hope Buckner, vice president for executive communication and aspirational initiatives at Belmont during her keynote address Monday night. “It is everything we choose to do as an organization and individuals, and importantly, what we choose not to do. It’s the language that we use and that we don’t use. At its core, it’s hospitality. Maybe we can get better at our craft by intentionally stepping toward a commitment to unreasonable hospitality throughout the practice of public relations.”

Belmont’s PR program was established in 2004 by Pam Parry after a student observed the need for a public relations major. Faculty members quickly began drafting a curriculum and the University’s first public relations track was subsequently founded and housed in the Department of Media Studies the same year.

In 2005, the Belmont chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America was chartered with the support of Greg Bailey, then-president of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Nashville Chapter. Today, Belmont PRSSA is one of five chapters sponsored by the PRSA Nashville chapter and is internationally recognized.

Shortly thereafter in 2006, Dr. Bonnie Riechert was hired as the second PR faculty member and was appointed the program chair in 2012, the same year the Department of Public Relations was formally introduced. Riechert served as department chair until 2020 when Dr. Kevin Trowbridge was appointed.untitled-design-6.png

“Over the past two decades, the Public Relations program at Belmont has grown from a burgeoning interest among students in a single elective introductory course into a separate academic department with a comprehensive curriculum that now includes a Social Media Management program,” said Trowbridge. “Our alumni are proof that strategic communication skills can make a global difference. Looking to the future, we are excited by the changing communication landscape and confident that our foundational principles and focus on relationships will continue to prepare communication leaders who make the world a better place.”

The department’s core curriculum is interdisciplinary, combining communication, journalism and marketing to equip students with the writing, research, analysis and creative skills essential for success in the vital world of PR. In addition, hands-on projects, guest speaker events and close ties to organizations like PRSA offer students opportunities to gain practical knowledge and expertise outside of the classroom.

untitled-design-5.png“I love what I do and who I do it with,” concluded Buckner during her keynote remarks. “I love working for an organization that understands the value of strategic communications and PR and is eager to prioritize counsel from that perspective. I love being in a place where I can demonstrate unreasonable hospitality, where we love people well, care for them deeply and seek to build strong, lasting relationships that will benefit our university and community.”

As Belmont’s public relations department celebrates its 20th anniversary, the program is poised to continue making a significant impact on the industry and the world beyond. With its strong foundation, innovative spirit and commitment to "unreasonable hospitality," the future looks bright for this dynamic and in-demand field of study.

Learn more about Belmont’s public relations major.