Flagler College Com Week 2023: Q&A with PRSSA President
Mar 3, 2023
Since 2005, the Flagler College Communications Department has invited alumni, communications professionals, and community members to participate in Com Week. It's an opportunity for students to network while gaining valuable insights from leaders and innovators in the fields they are interested in pursuing.
We talked with Senior Matthew Dutton, president of the Public Relations Student Society of America and organizer for Com Week 2023, about his experience attending past Com Weeks and the vision for this year's programming:
Over the past three years, what have been some of your major takeaways from Com Week?
My key takeaway from previous COM Weeks that I have attended is definitely getting a strong sense of what it means to be a communication professional. I've heard from a variety of individuals from different backgrounds and hearing their experience in communication really helps me and other students figure out our own goals.
Tell me about this year’s theme “The Truth About Communication” and how it was developed.
This year's theme for COM Week has been developing since last summer. "The Truth About Communication" is an interesting topic because oftentimes, viewers have preconceived opinions about journalists, reporters, and PR professionals. So, I think having an open dialogue about what truth really means is important to current students that are aspiring communication professionals. Everyone has a different outlook on truth and COM Week is a great way for professionals to give their own insight into what truth really means in all aspects.
In developing the programming for this year’s Com Week, how did you source speakers, and what was your strategy for choosing them?
Flagler's communication faculty does the leg work in lining up our speakers and panelists for COM Week and it usually comes down to the connections they have with others across the country. When sourcing speakers, we like to have a variety of professionals to expose students to all aspects of communication; that can include filmmakers, PR practitioners, decorated journalists, producers, social media experts, and more. We also have great connections with Flagler communication alumni that are successful in their careers and invite them to speak at our alumni panel where they can engage with current students and share their journey in transitioning from a student to a working professional.
How did you work with speakers to nail down their topics of presentation or what guidance did you give them?
We like to give our speakers lots of flexibility when deciding on what they would like to present. They are aware of the theme of COM Week, and usually, the sessions they have are tailored around that theme in some way.
This year’s alumni panel has an impressive lineup of recent grads; what topics will they cover in the session and why do you think their perspective on the industry is especially important?
The alumni panel is one of COM Week's most anticipated events because many current students are posing the question of what they can do with their communication degree. Inviting alumni that are successful in their careers is great because they can share their journey of transitioning from a student to a working professional. I think their perspective on the industry really helps current students figure out their goals and plans post-graduation and gives them a good sense of what they can accomplish with the skillset they earned from Flagler.
Are there any traditions of Com Week or any speakers or events that occur every year? And why have they carried through the years?
The speech contest and alumni panel are great traditions of COM Week that I always enjoy. These events have become essential to COM Week because it encourages student engagement and interaction with the speakers and panelists. Open dialogue and meaningful conversations are essential to a successful COM Week.
There are a handful of events planned for Com Week that students can get involved in like the Speech Competition, One-Minute Film Festival, and Pulitzer Center competition. What do they entail, and why would you encourage students to participate?
Every year, we really strive to make COM Week as interactive as possible. The speech contest allows students to write their own speech that answers a prompt, usually correlated with the theme, and present it to judges for a chance to win cash prizes. This year, we also added the one-minute film festival which is aimed at our digital media productions students or anyone that has skills in creating short film projects. I would encourage students to get involved in events like these because they touch on important aspects of communication while also focusing on this year's theme of truth.
What new or unexpected events/ speakers are you looking forward to?
The one-minute film festival is the newest event I'm looking forward to. Short-form video is becoming increasingly popular and many students have skills in creating this type of content. I also think it will be interesting to see how students create videos that address this year's theme of communication.