OXFORD, Miss. – Several of the nation’s top communications professionals will share insights and offer advice to students later this month at the third IMC Connect! Conference at the University of Mississippi.
The event, hosted by the School of Journalism and New Media, is set for March 25-27 at various locations across campus. It is a student-led event that provides opportunities for students to connect with communication leaders from well-known brands representing different industries. IMC Connect! is recognized as an official University of Mississippi 175th anniversary event, supported by the Provost’s office.
“This will be my third year attending IMC Connect!, and I’m excited to hear from all the guest speakers this year,” said Caroline Tibbs, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Diamondhead, Mississippi. “Every IMC Connect! session I’ve attended over the past few years have been informative about potential career options and much more. I’ve learned many great job tips and advice.”
Students enrolled in Dr. Amanda Bradshaw’s event planning class, including Tibbs, organized the conference.
“Through planning IMC Connect!, students learn the invaluable lesson of how to remain productive and make progress despite uncertainty. This includes how to pivot in real time due to the unexpected challenges that arise when you have a catering quote come in too high, a speaker unexpectedly back out, or sponsor come on board at the last minute—all of which has happened this year alone,” said Dr. Bradshaw. “Our students are learning the life skills of not only event planning and logistics, but also professionalism, stress management, and the art of flexibility, which is required behind the scenes when planning events of all sizes.”
The panelists, many of whom are Ole Miss alumni, represent leading corporations and organizations, including:
- Leslie Westbrook, Owner, Leslie M. Westbrook & Associates
- Tiffannie L. Hedin, Corporate Communications Manager, Toyota of Mississippi
- Marti Powers, Vice President of Communications, Boeing Defense, Space & Security
- Kendra Evelsizer, Communications Branding and Operations Specialist, The Boeing Company
- Jennifer Anderson, Chief Marketing Officer, C Spire
- Will Kiss, Senior Director, Media Relations, National Football League’s Las Vegas Raiders
- Chris Chiames, Chief Communications Officer, Carnival Cruise Line
- Elizabeth Whittington, MBA, APR, Director of Executive Communications, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
- Jenny Robertson, Senior Vice President, Integrated Marketing and Communications, FedEx
- Yanique Woodall, Vice President, Corporate Affairs & Strategy Communication, CVS Health
- Amanda Brown-Olmstead, Founder, A. Brown-Olmstead and Associates
- Radina Russell, AU.S. Chair, Corporate Affairs Advisory & General Manager, Atlanta Southeast Market, Edelman
- Victor R. Scott II, IMC Executive
- San Sharma, National President, Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA)
- Jeffrey Young, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, National Hot Rod Association
- Steve Holmes, Emcee
- C. Heidi Grether, Former Communications and External Affairs Lead, Deepwater Horizon Response, BP/Swift Worldwide Resources
- Lisa Houghton, Consultant, WPNT Communications
- Kelley Hunsberger, Managing Director, Red Window Communications
- Lucy Schultze, CEO and Founder, Red Window Communications
- Rita Men, Ph.D. APR, Professor – Department of Public Relations and Director of Internal Communication Research, University of Florida
- Holly Overton, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, Director of Research for the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication, Pennsylvania State University
- Todd Holmes, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Head of the Entertainment Media Management Program, California State University of Northridge
- Brett Robertson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina
This year’s event serves as a district conference for the Public Relations Student Society of America, allowing students and faculty from other universities across the country to visit Oxford.
Oakley Weedle, Vice President of Chapter Development for the PRSSA National Committee, attended the event last year and said, “IMC Connect! is always the best event of the year. Ole Miss does an incredible job putting together programming that integrates both regional and global perspectives to help students launch their career in media. If you’re out of town, Oxford is a charming town at the intersection of business and southern sweetness. As the Vice President of Chapter Development for the PRSSA National Committee, I am thrilled to extend an invitation to join us at this transformative event. IMC Connect! is not just an opportunity to learn—it’s a gateway to the future of media and public relations. I look forward to sharing this extraordinary experience with you at the PRSSA Southeast District Conference.”
Panelists will provide insights related to crisis communication; branding and visual communication; internal communications; corporate social responsibility; diversity, equity and inclusion programs; and navigating a media landscape with artificial intelligence, deepfakes and other emerging concerns.
A session on “The Playbook for Success in Sports Communication” is set for Tuesday, March 26th in the South Club of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
“I am looking forward to this opportunity to hear Will Kiss from the Las Vegas Raiders talk about his expertise in sports marketing. I am intrigued to learn about the insights of the NFL and what goes behind the scenes of game days that we don’t see on tv,” said Tatum Chenen, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Middleburg Virginia that is planning the sports panel.
Another session that tackles timely challenges is “The Power of Trust: Unleashing AI in Modern PR Tactics,” with discussion focusing on the use of ChatGPT, Photoshop Beta and other AI platforms. This session is slated for Wednesday, March 27th at The Inn at Ole Miss in the Ballroom
Attendees are encouraged to follow @olemissjourimc on Instagram for program updates. Check out the conference website for schedule updates and other information. The event going paperless with the program to promote sustainability; thus, the full agenda, maps, speaker contact information and direct messaging service, and more can all be found on Whova.
The conference is free to Ole Miss students, faculty and staff and can register here. For out-of-town guests, register here. Attendees can also reserve a room at the conference venue, The Inn at Ole Miss, here.
By Carleigh Holt Harbin