What it Really Means to be a Star Chapter

The 2019–2020 JMU PRSSA executive board

The James Madison University Chapter of PRSSA has won five Star Chapter awards in a row, but it’s not the recognition that has meant the most to us. When you break down what it means to be awarded Star Chapter, you realize what it’s all about: giving back and making a difference.

First of all, PRSSA National has done an impressive job creating attainable and purposeful criteria for Star Chapter. Public relations is built on cultivating positive relationships, and I think the criteria reflect that. There are so many benefits to becoming a Star Chapter— even some that aren’t so obvious— but here are my top five:

  1. Instill ethical values in your members.

One of the criteria requires your Chapter to have at least one general body meeting regarding ethics. For us, we’ve taken this opportunity to feature some really interesting speakers who have a lot to say about ethics during difficult times.

Last year, we had Miriam Dickler, the former director of communications for Charlottesville, speak about working during the Unite the Right rally. This year, we had Julie Hill, director of communications for Virginia Beach, speak about the recent Virginia Beach shooting.

Speakers like this talk about ethics in an applied way that provides vivid examples and lessons to take away. Be creative and your members will remember the role ethics plays in PR.

Amanda Christian, Chapter president, and Heather Pruim, Bluestone Communications firm director, represented JMU at the PRSSA 2019 Leadership Rally in Scottsdale, Arizona.

  1. Strengthen your Chapter for the future.

This one might not be as obvious as others but providing the kinds of opportunities that a Star Chapter does will cultivate community within the Chapter. Getting closer to your PRSA sponsor Chapter, attending leadership conferences and creating a student-run firm helps bond your Chapter and create allegiance.

  1. Further the legacy of public relations.

Public relations has a rich history, but modern PR is relatively new and molding future practitioners is important. These Star Chapter requirements create well-rounded members— members who volunteer, work with others and garner positive media exposure.

  1. Give back to your community and escape the college bubble.

In some college towns, it is easy to stay trapped in the college bubble. By conducting an outreach session in a local high school and completing a community service project, you give your members the opportunity to step out into the community and make a difference.

  1. Establish opportunities for professional development.

Several of the criteria deal with exposing the Chapter to conferences, scholarships, firm experience and networking opportunities. Members should be encouraged to attend conferences, apply for scholarships and network with PRSA Chapters, students/faculty from other disciplines and other PRSSA Chapters.

Amanda Christian posing with Chapter presidents and firm directors from all over the country at the PRSSA 2019 International Conference in San Diego, Calif.

These are things you’re likely already doing, so why not become a Star Chapter?


Amanda Christian is a senior at James Madison University studying public relations, writing, rhetoric and technical communication, and honors interdisciplinary studies. She is the president of JMU’s Chapter of PRSSA, writes for Her Campus at JMU and works as an editorial intern for JMU Communications & Marketing. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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