Fellowship for Educators Program


The Plank Center’s mission is to help develop and recognize outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society. Our founder, the legendary Betsy Plank, known as the First Lady of Public Relations, had a life-long passion for matching educators and professionals so that both would grow together.

We designed the summer fellowship specifically for public relations educators with the dual purpose of exposing professors to current day-to-day operations of the public relations function and to help create an exchange of information and ideas that will enhance the professional development of both the educators and the practitioner-hosts.

Congratulations to the 2016 Plank Fellows and their hosts:

  • Dr. Shelley Aylesworth-Spink, University of West London, hosted by Burson-Marsteller (New York)
  • Dr. Donna Elkins, Spalding University, hosted by Darden Restaurants (Orlando)
  • Dr. Melissa Janoske, University of Memphis, hosted by General Motors (Detroit)
  • Dr. YoungAh Lee, Ball State University, hosted by Weber Shandwick (New York)
  • Dr. Vanessa Murphree, University of Southern Mississippi, hosted by Home Depot (Atlanta)
  • Dr. Brittany Rowe-Cernevicius, Westminster College, hosted by Deveney Communications (New Orleans)
  • Dr. Stephanie Smith, Virginia Tech University, hosted by Cox Communications (Atlanta)
  • Dr. Nur Uysal, Marquette University, hosted by Ketchum (Chicago)
  • Dr. Chris Wilson, Brigham Young University, hosted by American Airlines (Fort Worth)

Educator Fellows

A two-week summer fellowship developed specifically for public relations educators for the purpose of exposing professors to current day-to-day operations of the public relations function and helping create an exchange of information and ideas between educators and their host organizations.

Key beneficiaries are public relations students. They can be assured their professors are knowledgeable in the current practices and issues facing practitioners and that practitioners have a greater appreciation for the value of theory and research of their classrooms in today’s public relations work.

Meet Previous Participants

Since the program’s existence, approximately 50 educators have been selected. Meet the educator fellows.

Host Organizations

Sponsoring organizations are drawn from public relations agencies, corporations, not-for-profits and the government sector. The organizations truly see the value in this program. Placement with a particular organization depends on the educator’s area(s) of expertise. The number of placements depends on the number of organizations willing to host an educator.

Fellowship Logos2Throughout the history of this program, a number of world-class agencies and corporations have participated, including such organizations as General Motors, Harley-Davidson, Sprint, Ketchum, Edelman Worldwide, Deveney Communications, Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Golin, ESPN, the American Heart Association and others. Plank Center trustees undertake an outreach to past host organizations and seek to recruit new companies and agencies to join us each year. Our goal always is to recruit the leading organizations that share our deep commitment for leadership and mentoring.


Educators selected as Fellows will spend at least two full weeks in the offices of the sponsoring organization typically in June or July. They will be given a full orientation to the sponsoring organizations, the particular department, staff duties and responsibilities, clients and/or projects. Sponsoring organizations will designate a key professional as the official host and mentor for the visiting professors during their time in residency. In return, educators may use their own expertise to:

  •  Conduct a workshop or seminar for the staff of the sponsoring organization;
  • Conduct a research project;
  • Produce a report or white paper highlighting their impressions, key takeaways and recommendations for how the sponsors can new proficiencies in a key discipline;
  • Develop proprietary knowledge in existing or new areas of strategic focus; and/or
  • Interact with greater effectiveness on the college campus.

To participate in the Fellowship for Educators, the sponsoring organization will pay housing and per diem expenses up to a maximum of $3,000 for the chosen educator; the educators will pay for travel to/from the sponsoring organization, and any out-of-pocket expenses.

Questions about the Educator Fellowship program should be directed to Dr. Karla Gower at gower@apr.ua.edu.

Grants & Awards


The following links provide information about some organizations that provide funding for public relations projects.

  • Rotary International
  • The Page Center
  • PRSA Foundation
  • Awards

    The following links provide information on some of the industry's awards for achievement in public relations practice.