Meet Northern Arizona University's New Associate Director, School of COM

Janice Sweeter, Ph.D.

Northern Arizona University's Associate Director,

Academic/Student Affairs, School of COM

I love teaching public relations courses at NAU and co-advising our school's chapter of PRSSA. The club’s enthusiasm, insight and creativity impress me every day. When I joined my first meeting of the NAU chapter, there were three members and a well-meaning, but struggling leadership. Flash forward three years... At a recent meeting, I watched three groups of members tackling PR challenges for campus clubs and community partners. A dynamic industry practitioner shared her expertise at the podium and mentored the executive team.

This renewed energy was sparked by PRSA Board Member Amy McConnell, APR, who took her role as liaison to our chapter in the pines as a personal, heartfelt commitment. She made a two-hour drive to show up and speak with students (bonus for livening up my 8 a.m. PR Case Studies class), gave guidance to the PRSSA executive board and bolstered membership with scholarships and professional development opportunities. She taught me the power of listening openly to students and encouraging their dreams and goals. I will bring her inspiration to my new role as Associate Director (Academic/Student Affairs) for the School of Communication. 

This is a new leadership position, created by the visionary new director of our School, Laura Umphrey, Ph.D. I embrace Laura’s pioneer spirit and positivity, and relish the chance to build a new resource from the ground up. First priority---listening. I will devote time to hanging out in the halls and hearing from students between classes. I will be the point person for all things student-related, including a big welcome back to campus (in our building and online), helping students achieve their academic goals whatever their situation in the current pandemic. I will advocate for program integrity and quality, developing new curriculum and navigating student grievances and grade appeals. I will also be the point person for all clubs and student activities, opening dialogue for issues, including Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA resources, mental health support and more. Two students have signed on for independent studies to help me shape the program, earn course credit and expand their knowledge of the rapidly evolving field of change communication. Amy set a high bar for offering opportunities and resources to club members through her commitment to PRSSA. I will look to her example and make sure students feel heard, connected and hopeful, in these uncertain times.

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