Board Member Spotlight: Adrienne A. Wallace, Ph.D.


This month, we are highlighting our current Chair Adrienne A. Wallace, Ph.D.

Adrienne A. Wallace is an enthusiastic communicator with over 20 years experience in both the public and private sectors ranging in scope from nonprofit, health, education, government, hospitality, politics, lobbying and finance.

Adrienne teaches undergraduate courses at Grand Valley State University mostly in the PR emphasis and has a passion for student-to-professional development. She advises the student-run PR firm GrandPR and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter at GVSU. She also serves as the Ad&PR Internship Director and GVSU’s Bateman Competition faculty advisor. Adrienne is a board member of the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America (WMPRSA), chair of the East Central District Public Relations Society of America (ECDPRSA), communications chair of the PRSA Educators Academy (PRSAEA), and serves the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) on the social media committee and is the chair of the website committee.

Adrienne received her Ph.D. in public administration with a focus in public affairs and public policy from Western Michigan University (WMU) where she focused on the intersection of public relations, participation and lobbying on the creation/implementation of public policy in the United States. She’s a Grand Rapids Westsider, amateur chef, wife to tech/PR geek Derek DeVries (Lambert & Co.) and mother to rescue beagles Rosie and Watson.

– Ph.D. in Public Affairs, Policy & Administration, Western Michigan University
– M.P.A. in Government & Non-Profit Administration, Grand Valley State University
– M.S. in Communications, Grand Valley State University
– B.S. in Health Communications/Advertising/Public Relations, Grand Valley State University

Home Chapter: West Michigan

What is your favorite part about being part of PRSA (National, District and Chapter levels)?

The impact we can have at all levels is really up to the individual. I like being able to get as dirty as I want in the process of leadership. It’s been my distinct privilege to work with PRSSA students at all levels of their educational and professional careers.

What do you hope to contribute to PRSA-ECD in 2020?

I’m usually involved in board work to move initiatives along and encourage collaboration within units – I like involving many people to achieve goals. Most people just want to be asked to participate and I’m not afraid to make the ask. We had two goals for ECD this year: 1 – support our chapters more efficiently, 2- more effective outreach to PRSSA chapters for deliberate student involvement in the district. So far our board initiatives have been robust and successful. Our members have needs and our board has solutions. It’s been amazing to work with these folks.

What is your favorite part of public relations (and other related communications industries)? 

I love a good crisis – that looks worse typed out. 🙂 There is nothing like being the cool-headed person, formulating solutions, in a room full of drama against the unknown future. Feeling like you can make an immediate difference in a situation is a really gracious experience.

Talk about your career. What have been some highlights and missteps, and what have you learned from them? 

I’ve made pretty much every mistake one can make in PR and every time I’ve learned from the experience and bounced back more resilient than before. There is something so powerful about experiencing a loss, an error, or whatever – that really makes you appreciate the good stuff that goes right. I think you learn more about people in times of crisis and failure than you do when everything is going smoothly. Life is pretty easy when you are untested and when there are no obstacles in the way. Having the courage to fail and recover forces us to look inward at our own mortality and answer the question, can I go on? There is personal power in that experience and it builds confidence in what is possible. I maintain you don’t know what you can do or who you are without some adversity.

What would you say to a prospective member who wants to join PRSA but is on the fence? 

It’s worth a try. Just go to a few chapter events and decide, those are low barrier to entry and usually low cost or free. What do you really have to lose?

What do you like most about QuickStart, the Diamond Awards and/or other PRSA-ECD initiatives?

I love QuickStart. I think it’s so refreshing to get to know our chapter leaders 1:1 during this time. It makes you feel less alone in the issues that your own chapter is facing as there is likely someone else with the same problem. It encourages group collaboration and problem solving in a way I’ve not been able to really feel at a national level at PRSA.

Would you like to add anything else?

One of the hallmark reasons I’ve been involved in PRSA is to mentor students in PRSSA into emerging PR leaders. We need mentors in PRSSA chapters now more than ever before. If you are not close to your PRSSA chapter locally, find out how to get involved. We can’t continue to complain or be worried about what the next gen will do or experience if we are not ourselves making action to support or aid the next level of leader in PR. I think one of the most frustrating things I experience in my day-to-day job is how hungry my students are for sound mentors and on the other side hearing how much complaining professionals do about young people. PR Pros: get over it and forge a relationship with a young person. You will learn from them as much as they learn from you.

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