La Salle News

La Salle Professor Michael Smith Honored by Philadelphia Chapter of Public Relations Society of America for His Dedication to Education

January 18, 2012

La Salle University Communication professor Michael Smith recently was recognized for his dedication and commitment to education from the Philadelphia chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) with its Anthony Fulginiti Award.

“It is truly humbling and gratifying to be nominated for this award,” said Smith, who has taught public relations at La Salle for 18 years.

“The Philadelphia area is home to a number of great public relations educators, and I teach in a department full of colleagues dedicated to teaching, which makes this honor even more special,” he added.

He was nominated for the Fulginiti Award by Louis Grossman, who received it in 2009. “If you talk to [Smith] for just a few minutes, you feel his dedication to his students,” said Grossman, who owns Grossman Public Relations Counselors.

Smith has supervised nearly 150 student service-learning projects, in which La Salle students provide public relations campaigns for area non-profit organizations, such as the Clean Air Council of Philadelphia, Special People in the Northeast, the American Heart Association, the Historical Society of Frankford, various branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Northeast Committee on Homelessness. He is also faculty advisor to La Salle’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

In 2000, Smith was part of the media relations committee that planned and carried out Philadelphia’s media relations efforts during the Republican Convention. “We hosted 15,000 journalists from around the world,” he said. “I handled local publicity for PoliticalFest, the event designed for area residents to be involved with the convention even though they couldn’t attend the actual thing, and staffed the press room every day of the convention. “

Smith’s father was a public relations professional who worked for Westinghouse in Pittsburgh and the Burroughs Corporation, one of the first successful mainframe computer makers.

“I think I knew more about PR than most kids when I was growing up, so that probably had an influence on my being in involved with public relations,” said Smith. “I also was introduced to PR strategy and tactics through my dad: a business acquaintance of his recruited me as a “spokeskid” for a drunk-driving public service announcement when I was about 11.  Later, I was used in several publicity events for the various banks for which my dad consulted.

“I think my dad’s biggest influence on me was as a writer — he loved words, loved to write, and considered writing to be a key to many good careers.  So, I knew I wanted a career where I could write, and I knew I wasn’t inventive enough to write fiction.  It boiled down to journalism or PR, and I discovered I enjoyed helping organizations make news rather than reporting it. But the core was always writing, and that was dad’s great influence,” he said.

In addition to teaching, Smith was instrumental in the formation of La Salle’s student chapter of PRSSA, which is one of the reasons Grossman nominated him for the award.

The Anthony Fulginiti Award was “established to honor a public relations professional who shares Tony’s commitment to the future of our profession and the award honors a person who excels in education, either through their mentoring/teaching, their efforts to help shape the careers of future PR professionals, or their contributions to PRSSA,” according to the PRSA Web site. Fulginiti teaches public relations at Rowan University.

In 2005, Smith received La Salle University’s Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award, given to an individual who honors the ideals of St. John Baptist de La Salle, the founder of the Christian Brothers (the order that founded and operates La Salle), and the patron saint of teachers.

Smith has consulted or volunteered with a variety of religious, athletic, cultural, and cause-related nonprofits, including the American Stroke Association, the American Cancer Society, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, and the Cultural Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

Smith’s research interests include activism in public relations, public relations in community building, and public relations teaching. He has contributed chapters to four books that have won the PRIDE Award for Outstanding Book in Public Relations from the National Communication Association (NCA). Most recently, he co-authored a chapter on activism for the second edition of The Handbook of Public Relations and is helping to revise a chapter on service-learning for Learning to Teach PR, a PRSA-sponsored handbook for professionals moving into teaching.

Smith is past chair of the Public Relations Division of the NCA, one of the largest groups of public relations educators in the U.S. In addition, he also has chaired the NCA Experiential Learning Division. He volunteered with the Philadelphia PRSA chapter to publicize its service activity during the 2007 International Conference. He was the founding Director of La Salle’s Master’s degree program in Prague and is a former director of La Salle’s graduate program in Professional and Business Communication.

Smith’s expert views on public relations issues have appeared in U.S. News and World Report, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Baltimore Sun, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Press of Atlantic City, Public Relations Tactics, Public Relations News, MSNBC and KYW Newsradio.

A Detroit native, Smith earned his bachelor and master’s degrees in Administration and Communication from Central Michigan University, and a Ph.D. from Purdue University.  He taught at Central Michigan University, Ball State University, and Purdue University before joining La Salle’s faculty.

— Katherine Blessing



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