The six-year-old educational outreach program is designed to amplify the power of diversity, equity and inclusion while growing the pipeline of diverse advertising and public relations professionals. This year’s Academy will happen in Atlanta from Nov. 9-13.
Myra Blackmon (ABJ ’72, M.Ed ’08) has enjoyed a long and varied career in industry and nonprofit organizations. For many years, she owned M. Blackmon Public Relations in Athens, serving a diverse clientele in finance, food products, health care, public affairs and fundraising. She and her husband, the late Dr. Thomas P. Holland, consulted internationally on management and governance of nonprofit organizations. Blackmon also taught public relations courses in Grady College’s AdPR Department for several years.
“For communications professionals to be truly effective, they have to reflect their varied audiences,” said Blackmon. “A visceral understanding of our diverse audiences requires constant commitment. I am proud to be able to support such an effort through the college that has been such an important part of my life since 1969!”
Students in the Academy receive over 35 hours of training and mentoring by experts working in the advertising and public relations industries, participate in daily networking opportunities with corporate executives and agency professionals, and compete in teams representing real-life clients for cash prizes.
“We truly appreciate Myra’s generosity,” said Dr. Juan Meng, Head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations. “Her commitment in advancing diversity and inclusion plays a huge role in supporting the success of this program.”
This year, Grady College invited partner institutions Albany State University, Clemson University, Georgia State University, Florida A&M University, Howard University, Kennesaw State University, Tuskegee University and the University of South Carolina to hand-select cohorts of their own students to participate in the program. Interested students not attending one of the partner institutions were invited to apply directly.
“It’s really about creating and amplifying the importance of diversity and building a pipeline with a particular focus on students of color,” said DeShele Taylor, Director of the Myra Blackmon AdPR Academy for Diversity and Inclusion. “We’ve really seen a nice rippling effect of the benefits of this program. Everyone who has gone through this program has said that they feel they have a clear pathway forward.”
Over its history, the program has graduated 99 students from 21 U.S. colleges and universities. Many of the program’s alumni have stayed in the fields of advertising and public relations, working for agencies, corporations or nonprofits. Several have gone on to pursue advanced degrees before launching their careers.
In years past, the AdPR Academy happened in the spring. This year, however, the program will run in the fall, giving students the opportunity to put the experience on their resumes before submitting applications to competitive summer internships and jobs.
“The Department of Modern Languages, Communication, and Philosophy at Tuskegee University is excited to have our Communication majors as part of AdPR Academy,” said Dr. Adaku T. Ankumah, chair of the aforementioned department. “The goal of advancing diversity is in line with the University’s mission of being a center of diversity and its strategic goals for the next five years. In addition, we seek strategic partnerships that will provide our students with hands-on experiences, so they are ready for the job market. We look forward to the opportunities that will open for them from this collaboration.”
Mira Lowe, Dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communications at Florida A&M University, added: “We are excited to work with AdPR Academy at the University of Georgia in helping to close the diversity gap in the advertising and public relations industries. Our partnership will open new doors to our PR students seeking career opportunities and connections in various professional networks. This collaboration with UGA enables us to expand the professional development of our students in a consequential way.”