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MSU AD+PR Student Experiences Kindness from Chicago Advertising Federation After Campus Tragedy

MSU AD+PR Student Experiences Kindness from Chicago Advertising Federation After Campus Tragedy

Exterior photograph of poster saying, "We Love You, Spartans!"

By: Ellie Harner
Photo Credit: Michigan State University

Editor’s Note: Following the violence our Michigan State University campus community experienced in February 2023, many original content plans for The Brief’s SS23 PR 320 student editorial team were no longer feasible or appropriate.

In that event, writers took alternate approach developing PR stories about themselves as students in our AD+PR community. For those students who found it healing or helpful, content focus shifted to experiences resulting from our campus violence, in classes the week after, access to departmental/campus resources or support, or involvement in campus and/or community events – especially those related to and connected with the Department of Advertising + Public Relations.

This special #SpartanStrong Issue of The Brief contains digital and video content related to the events surrounding MSU violence campus experienced in February 2023. To access crisis support resources and updates, please visit


On the night of Feb. 13, Michigan State University student Ellie Harner, attended her on-campus VIM Magazine meeting just as she would every other Monday night this semester. What she did not expect was to run through the halls, debating whether to walk out the doors leading to her car with 80 other students frantically running behind her.

“I remember I didn’t want to go to this particular meeting, none of my friends in VIM were able to drive with me, so I went by myself. I am a part of the magazine’s public relations team, and we were hosting an alumni panel over ZOOM,” said Harner.

While Harner drove as fast as she could from campus, police sirens boomed, ambulances came hurling down the streets of Farm Lane, and students ran for shelter. Once home, Harner and her roommates hid in her attic for over four hours reaching out to loved ones, friends and each other just praying for this horrific reality to be over.

“Immediately after the all-clear, I drove to Grand Rapids around 2 a.m. to be with both my parents. As hard as it was to leave my friends during this time, my anxiety and emotions were so heightened, all I wanted to feel was safety. The next morning, I could not even process how I felt, the only way to describe it was I felt numb,” said Harner.

As every student was trying to recover and heal, Harner received immense amount of support from her Spartan community, MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences faculty, and those close to her. Harner was also already signed up to attend the Chicago Advertising Federation Career Fair that following Friday. She got the opportunity through MSU AD+PR weekly newsletters and had been preparing to converse with those immersed in the advertising and public relations industry at the event for over a month.

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Herself, still grieving, sat in front of her computer Friday morning writing an email choked up as she asked her ticket purchase for the fair be refunded to the various linked GoFundMe’s created for those who lost their lives.

“As I stated in my email to the Chicago career fair coordinator, I was so excited to attend this event earlier that Monday,” said Harner. “Yet what took place at what I call home, I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about my school, public relations, advertising experiences, nor how I was feeling that soon whatsoever. I feared if I went people would ask me how I was doing, and I would immediately break down.”

Harner said the email she received back from the Chicago Advertising Federation board was a glimpse of hope and light among the darkness that consumed the month of February. The CAF board personally made a donation in Harner’s honor, sending prayers and condolences to Spartans everywhere. She also was contacted by the board of directors to personally have a ZOOM meeting, discussing all things advertising and future ventures within public relations.

Email screenshot
After missing the Chicago Advertising Federation Career Fair following MSU’s campus tragedy, Harner emailed the group and subsequently received their condolences and notification of a donation in her honor.

“I am grateful for the kindness shown to myself and my colleagues during this difficult time from both the CAF and MSU AD+PR faculty. It has made adjusting back to campus life more uplifting and made me focus on. My career rather than the violence our campus faced,” said Harner.

To access crisis support resources and updates, please visit