She had us at COVID’s first hello. The PRSA East Central District could proclaim Dr. Adrienne Wallace as its champion purely for her unshakable leadership as ECD chair in the early panic of the pandemic and the eruption of George Floyd. But that is just part of why we honor her as the worthy recipient of the ECD Platinum Award for 2022.

Her style is to lead with clarity and purpose, then work relentlessly against any crisis that dares to intervene. Her personal and professional creed is to champion diversity, inclusion, and equality with meaningful change. Her passion is to not just advise students, but to lift them up, mentoring them to believe in their better selves and a better world.

Dr. Wallace is an Associate Professor in the School of Communications at Grand Valley State University and earned her Ph.D. in Public Affairs, Policy & Administration in 2018 from Western Michigan University. In her work with the PRSA West Michigan Chapter, she has engaged with professionals across the state to secure internships and first jobs for her students.

Earning the Platinum award requires outstanding service to PRSA and PRSSA on the chapter, district, and national levels, including authorship, presentations, and organizational work that impact the profession.

“The Platinum Award recognizes outstanding professional service, of which Dr. Wallace is an unmatched role model,” said Past ECD Chair Andrea Clark in her letter of support. “These are just highlights!”

Andrea listed Adrienne’s national service as PRSA Educators Academy Secretary; ECD service as past chair; PRSA West Michigan chapter president-elect after multiple board duties since 2017; and advisor to both PRSSA at Grand Valley State University and to the student-run agency GrandPR since 2009.

“The most delightful part of winning this award is sharing it with my colleagues, friends, and students in the ECD, WMPRSA, and GVPRSSA,” said Adrienne. “It’s even sweeter that I followed in the footsteps of one of my early academic and career mentors Dr. Betty Pritchard (winner of this award in 2004).

“She assisted me in my very first ‘real’ publication, a book chapter about the Godmother of PRSSA, Betsy Plank, APR, Fellow PRSA. Thank you to the award committee for this unique honor that I will always treasure.”

Adrienne’s career honors and professional publications are too numerous to list. Her Platinum award comes in tandem with the 2022 GVSU Alumni Association Outstanding Educator Award and follows the 2021 GVSU Outstanding Academic Advising and Student Services Award.

“Dr. Wallace is someone who changes lives,” wrote Dr. Richard Besel, Director of the GVSU School of Communications. “She does not just meet with students; she mentors them. She does not just monitor students; she helps them through some of the hardest trials of their lives.”

The ECD nominating committee concurred: “Dr. Wallace is not simply a professor; she goes above and beyond to support and encourage the hundreds of students who pass through her classes. She is the kind of professor where it is not an exaggeration to say that she changes lives.”

Adrienne brought a whirlwind of energy and upgrades to the ECD board. As social media and website chair, she organized the first content calendar and updated all social media platforms.

As chair-elect, she converted QuickStart into a leadership conference, added a seed grant, and orchestrated the 2019 “Future Facing” conference to take a hard look at the future of our industry through critical themes of Youth and Diversity.

She was decisive as chair, making tough administration changes that triggered a financial audit and corrected decades-long structural imbalances.

“I love a good crisis,” Adrienne said in her 2020 ECD board profile, and that’s what she got with COVID-19.

“Feeling like you can make an immediate difference in a situation is a really gracious experience,” she said presciently, and she was prepared.

“When COVID-19 first reached Michigan and GVSU announced its campuses would close, Dr. Wallace worked late into the night… informing the (PRSSA) members of what the remainder of the semester would look like,” wrote Delaney Mackenzie of BlackTruck Media in her support letter. “In moments where students were struck with fear and uncertainty, Dr. Wallace used this as an opportunity to set realistic expectations and assisted her students with their first real crisis communications.”

After the killing of George Floyd, Adrienne with the ECD board created the first anti-racism statement for PRSA bringing together 17 chapters in co-authorship in just a few days, well before PRSA National voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement, then created a standing DEI committee for the district.

“Adrienne understands that increasing diversity in our profession starts early – in high school – and it is important to encourage students of color to explore PR career options,” wrote PRSA West Michigan President-Elect Kristen Krueger-Corrado. “Her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is topmost in her work in the Chapter.”

“She has advanced our profession not only through her own work, but also by sharing what she has learned…” wrote Clare Wade, PRSA Fellow. “She shows us the way, exploring trends and seeking the understanding needed to help guide our clients, organizations, and students in times of unimaginable change. She does so by reminding us of the long-term benefits of ensuring a diversity of perspectives.”

Clare noted that Adrienne’s years as a scholarship volleyball player at GVSU explains a lot about her drive and high standards.

“I didn’t have mentors,” Adrienne said. “I wish I had known about PRSSA. Because of that, I am very accessible to my students, and I am their advocate in every capacity.”

“It is clear she has made a major impact on our profession,” wrote Richard Batyko, Fellow PRSA. “While some in this profession are focused on one or two areas of support for our Association, Adrianne has been effective in influencing change in many areas for the simple reasons that she has the drive, talent and capacity to do it.”

“I’ve never seen a faculty member more available,” wrote Len O’Kelly, School of Communications associate director. “I’ve lost count of the conversations I’ve had with Prof. Wallace that begin with, ‘I was speaking to a student this weekend’ or ‘Last night after a club meeting a student reached out with a concern.’ Students know that they can go to her, and she’ll meet with them whenever they need.”

“Dr. Wallace always shows up for her students,” wrote Amy LeFebre of Truscott Rossman. “I can attest – they’re well-prepared. They’re curious and confident. They know the right questions to ask. They go beyond the parameters of assignments to deliver more. And without exception, they highly respect Adrienne.”

“She is a wealth of information and willing to share her expertise so others may not reinvent the wheel, but instead find ways to make it better,” wrote National PRSSA Faculty Adviser Alisa Abozzino from Ohio Northern University. “Her students rave of her excellent guidance both in the classroom and the real-world experiences she makes sure they are exposed to before leaving GVSU.”

Adrienne made her commitment to students clear in her 2020 profile.

“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,” she said. “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.”

As she learned from her students, and they from her, she earned their respect, and ours.

“There are university advisors – and then there is Adrienne,” wrote Tyler J. Lehner from Global Brand.

“Adrienne asks the questions that are needed, but often go left unasked. ‘How are you holding up?’ ‘What can I do to support you through this?’ ‘Do you have groceries and are you eating well?’ are just a few that come to mind.

“She makes herself available to her students at any day, time, or hour – whether that is a phone call, a text message or inviting you for a 1:1 to her home or office. Adrienne is always there.”

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