A Humber faculty member and a public relations industry leader were recently honoured by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) for their work in bringing an innovative partnership to Humber’s Bachelor of Public Relations program

Anne Marie Males and Eileen Tobey were recognized at the Canadian Public Relations Society' s (CPRS) 2020 annual general meeting for their work on the Bachelor of Public Relations Senior Fellow in Residence program, which brought Tobey, who runs her own agency,  to Humber as the CPRS Senior Fellow in Residence.  Tobey was named the CPRS Mentor of the Year and Males received the 2020 Award of Attainment. 

The pilot program began two years ago and links students, the public relations industry and CPRS.   

Anne Marie MalesMales, Program Coordinator for the Bachelor of Public Relations program, came up with the initiative after a conversation with a retiring PR colleague. They swapped stories and she reflected on the expertise and advice he provided and how valuable it could be to industry newcomers. “I was trying to find a way to connect senior practitioners with all this incredible knowledge to the people who could use it. Many wanted to give back in some way. I wanted to capture that,” she said. 

Males pitched the idea of a mentorship program to CPRS. The professional association greenlit the project and put out the call for potential Fellows in Residence. 

Eileen Tobey, President and CEO of beSPEAK Communications, has had a long and successful career in PR and was drawn to the opportunity. She has been a member to the CPRS College of Fellows since 2006. 

“Over the years, I‘ve hired and worked alongside Humber PR graduates and very much believe Humber offers the best PR program in the country,” she said. 

She put forth her name and was selected for the program, which is entering its third year. 

“Humber is widely known for excellence in public relations education. That's due in no small part to the communications expertise and commitment of our professors and industry partners,” said Guillermo Acosta, senior dean of the Faculty of Media & Creative Arts. “The CPRS Fellow in Residence position is a result of Anne Marie's leadership and the forward-thinking of our PR faculty. Eileen's mentorship has increased the industry preparedness of our students immeasurably.” 

‘They will blow your socks off’ 

Males came up with a plan for the mentorship program, but it evolved as Tobey began to work with students and faculty. 

As Senior Fellow, Tobey shares her knowledge and mentors students in several ways. She participates in panel discussions, presents to individual classes and holds office hours so students can meet with her one-on-one to discuss anything ‘PR-related’.  

A recurring theme for Tobey is the role of ethics and ethical behaviour in PR and helping students navigate the concept utilizing the CPRS Code of Standards. 

“It can be challenging for many to understand but there are so many examples of the need for ethics in the last two years. That focus really pays off and students really see the links,” she said. 

As the industry evolves with the cultural landscape, so does Humber’s program. Eileen Tobey

The mentorship program is helping to prepare students to step into the world of PR beyond internships. Tobey elaborates on concepts they are taught in class and brings a unique industry perspective – and connections. 

“Often industry and institutional academia align but they don’t always connect. That’s the power of the whole concept behind Humber College,” she said. 

“It was a tangible way for me to call up some of the industry leaders and for them to hear that I’ve been working with these students for a year and a half and they will blow your socks off.” 

The Senior Fellow role has also been beneficial to faculty. 

Most of the Public Relations faculty have worked in PR, though for some it has been several years. 

“To have a point person to say ‘Oh, this is how it still works,’ and help us build the curriculum around those current practices is super helpful,” said Males. 

The success of the pilot has prompted CPRS to consider piloting the concept at other educational institutions across the country. 

Tobey continues in her role as CPRS Fellow in Residence this fall.