“Where Are All the Black People?” Conference Brings AD+PR Students to NYC

As part of ADV 402 course, students networked with alumni and explored industry under-representation and diversity

By: Reece Banks

A group of people pose for a candid group photograph

MSU ComArtSci DEI staff, Lauren Gaines McKenzie and Jada Flowers, joined AD+PR students in ADV 402 in New York City for the One Club’s “Where Are All the Black People?” conference.

The public relations and advertising fields are widespread in terms of job opportunities and roles, but the same can’t be said for diversity. A 2018 Harvard Business Review analysis of federal labor statistics found that African Americans only make up 8.3% of the public relations field and only 3% of the advertising workforce. This under-representation is the central reason why promoting personnel diversity is a focal point today.

This fall 2022 semester, for the first time, a group of 12 students from Michigan State University’s Department of Advertising + Public Relations attended a diversity, equity and inclusion conference by the One Club in New York City, Oct. 5-8, called, “Where Are All The Black People?” The trip was made possible through Advertising 402, a one-credit, special topics course, that allows students to engage in experiential learning by traveling to various destinations for agency visits and professional networking.

Student participants went on agency visits, toured the city and had dinner with alumni who are local to New York. During the trip, the students had the chance to speak to a wide variety of people, including MSU alumni who graduated with advertising degrees to pursue careers in related fields such as creative advertisement, design and broadcast journalism. This unorthodox one-credit course also offered opportunities to grow connections and go sight-seeing in the Big Apple.

Among the attendees was junior communications and public relations student, Ariel Foster.

“The world of communications is so big; it was really nice to see how far you could go with public relations or marketing and things of that nature. There are a lot of opportunities out there that are awaiting,” said Foster.

The trip was spearheaded by Lauren Gaines Mckenzie, MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences director of diversity, equity and inclusion, and Jada Flowers, MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences project and event coordinator for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“We decided to take students to this conference because we wanted to be able to support students looking for information on careers in the advertising and communication industries, especially at the intersection of diversity, equity and inclusion.” said Flowers.

For those who missed the trip this year, Flowers says she hopes it will happen again in fall 2023. To learn more about this trip and the students’ experiences, check out MSU AD+PR’s Instagram page at msu_adpr.