Challenge for Emerging Leaders


Professionals in the public relations field have access to many development programs, but such opportunities are limited for students and young professionals. In an effort to advance leadership at all levels, The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations created the Challenge for Emerging Leaders, an intensive, two-day leadership workshop for engaged, high-achieving and diverse university seniors majoring in public relations.

The unprecedented and inaugural Challenge for Emerging Leaders was held at The University of Alabama on February 9 – 11, 2017. Eighteen students from five universities participated and categorized the Challenge as a “life-changing.”

The second Challenge for Emerging Leaders was held at DePaul University on November 9-11, 2017. Twenty students from five universities participated including: Ball State University, DePaul University, Grand Valley State University, Loyola University at Chicago, and Marquette University.

The Challenge participants were:

  • Ishmeal Allensworth, Ball State University
  • Dalia Awdi, DePaul University
  • Madison Barnes, Grand Valley State University
  • Brooke Beatty, DePaul University
  • Kelcie Boring, Loyola University-Chicago
  • Emily Caldwell, Loyola University-Chicago
  • Reece Harty, Marquette University
  • Caroline Hildebrand, Marquette University
  • Yara Ismail, DePaul University
  • Svetlana Jankewicz, DePaul University
  • Hannah Johnson, Marquette University
  • Amandari Karaca, Grand Valley State University
  • Adrienne (Dren) Kihn, Grand Valley State University
  • Asa McCormick, Ball State University
  • Evan Mimms, Loyola University-Chicago
  • Kate Neuberg, Marquette University
  • Morgan Reining, Ball State University
  • Danielle Rodriguez, Loyola University-Chicago
  • Erin Stehlik, Grand Valley State University
  • Hallie Welsh, Ball State University

Not only did the students have the opportunity to learn from some of the best professionals and academics in the industry, they gained crucial self-insights, advanced their conflict management and team-building skills, and acquired basic business knowledge. Along with the activities and assessments, students were divided into teams to work through a diversity case study.

The program was delivered by Dr. Peter Hammerschmidt, president of Leadership Consulting Services and professor at Eckerd College, Florida. Students also had the opportunity to learn from some of the best professionals and academics in the industry, including:

  • Bruce Berger, professor emeritus of advertising and public relations at the University of Alabama and research director for the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations;
  • Keith Burton, chair of the Center’s Board of Advisors and principal of Grayson Emmett Partners;
  • Ron Culp, consultant and professional director of the PR & Advertising Program at DePaul University;
  • Glenn Eden, leader of technology practice at Weber Shandwick (Chicago);
  • Raschanda L. Hall, director of global media relations for Business Wire;
  • Jon Harris, SVP and CCO of Conagra Brands;
  • Dr. Matt Ragas, associate professor at DePaul University; and
  • Joseph Tateoka, VP of corporate technology at Edelman (Chicago).

On the last day, teams presented their case study findings and were awarded a Certificate of Leadership Achievement. The winning team, featuring Emily Caldwell, Svetlana Jankewicz, Dren Kihn, Asa McCormick and Kate Neuberg, were recipients of the Betsy Plank Diversity Case Study Award.

The workshop would not have been possible without the generous support of Conagra Brands and MillerCoors.

Download the Challenge for Emerging Leaders brochure (PDF)

Resources of Interest

The Plank Center is committed to helping you expand your skills and advance the practice of public relations.