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The University of Alabama

UA’s Plank Center Announces Selections for Educator Fellowship Program

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at The University of Alabama has announced the seventh class for its Fellowship for Educators program.

Nine educators will have the opportunity to enhance their skills, as they will be placed in the offices of sponsoring organizations this summer.

The 2016 educator fellows and their hosts are:

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

“We developed 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 hosts,” said Keith Burton, vice chair of the Plank Center and principal of Grayson Emmett Partners.

Educators partake in research projects, training sessions and presentations, and they assist with company projects. In return, practitioners from the host organization visit the educator’s campus to interact with faculty, staff and students to share industry knowledge, trends and valuable insight.

The namesake of the Center, Betsy Plank, frequently said, “public relations people must be lifelong learners.” The Center’s goal with this program is to bridge the gap between education and practice by seeking to combine academia with real world experience.

For further information on the Fellowship for Educators program, go to

About the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations

In 2005, The University of Alabama Board of Trustees established The Plank Center. Named for public relations leader and UA alumna, the late Betsy Plank, the Center develops and recognizes outstanding diverse public relations leaders, role models and mentors to advance ethical public relations in an evolving, global society through a variety of initiatives.

In addition to national leaders in the practice and education, the Center’s Board includes an ex officio position for the president of the Public Relations Student Society of America that represents more than 11,000 members in 300-plus colleges and universities.

The Center is housed in UA’s department of advertising and public relations, a division of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. UA’s public relations program, with nearly 1,400 students, is the largest undergraduate degree program within the College. The program is certified by the Public Relations Society of America.

More information about the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations can be found at

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.