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Make dedication to service a lifelong commitment

By Karen Weber, UNO PRSSA Faculty Adviser

As I reflect on my 25th and final year of service as UNO PRSSA faculty adviser, a major part of my role connects students to service opportunities, which helps them to grow as engaged citizens. My parents and teachers instilled in me a passion to serve others.

One of the most memorable opportunities of my undergraduate career at the University of Nebraska at Omaha was being part of a team that created a video for United Way. We worked together to highlight the work local nonprofit organizations did to help those in need.

In my first job as a reporter at the Council Bluffs Nonpareil, I covered human services news stories that gave voice to underserved communities. When I became a journalism instructor at UNO, I encouraged my students to write about under-covered communities such as women, youth, immigrants, minorities, those with disabilities and the elderly.

My first experience with service-learning in the classroom came in 1999 when I taught Public Relations Writing. As a final project, students created a media kit for a metro nonprofit organization. Recently, one of the students in that class, Kathleen Al-Marhoon, APR, now director of public relations and corporate communications for Omaha Steaks, recalled how the media kit she created for the Hospice House, put her on the path of a decade-long career in nonprofit public relations. Kathleen says she has never forgotten the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. She has carried with her for nearly 25 years. I am humbled to be her mentor.

When I assumed the role of UNO PRSSA faculty adviser, the chapter was little more than a social club. I was determined to motivate students to devote their time to community service and engagement. In five short years, UNO PRSSA earned its first National Award for Outstanding Community Service, an award it has earned six more times.

I consider myself a “matchmaker” in my efforts to connect students with community partnerships in the classroom, through PRSSA and its nationally recognized student-run firm MaverickPR.

Through my years of supervising students in a variety of service learning and community engagement, I have become even more passionate about the importance of this role.

I firmly believe that learning public relations and other communication skills by doing not only benefits deserving nonprofit organizations but brings immeasurable personal rewards.

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