Journalism professor Kevin Lerner is joining students in the process of starting a student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at Marist. The first meeting for SPJ will be Wednesday, Oct. 31 at noon in Lowell Thomas 016.
"It is not a club or activity; it is a chapter of nationally recognized society for journalists," Lerner said. Journalism majors or Marist students interested in journalism are encouraged to attend the first meeting.
The Marist chapter SPJ plans to model itself after PRSSA, the Public Relations Student Society of America.
"Personally, I'm going to look towards PRSSA and the stuff that they've done because they are very successful," said Jeffrey Holmes, a junior who is assisting Lerner to gain student interest in SPJ.
SPJ's student chapter will be based on what the members are interested in doing. There is, however, one mandatory aspect of the society.
"SPJ requires all of its chapters to complete a service component, which works pretty well with Marist's dedication to service," Lerner said. Students can brainstorm fun and rewarding service options to fulfill the requirement.
Lerner and Holmes also offered potential suggestions about the chapter's potential activities.
"We could put through speaker series and bring in local journalists to talk on campus," Lerner said. "People from the Poughkeepsie Journal or other newspapers in the area can talk about what it's like to be a professional journalist after graduation."
Holmes suggested that SPJ can "allow students to gain more knowledge and attend conferences."
"I think we could do a lot of good things with it here at Marist," he said.
Attending events, conferences and other networking experiences can increase competitiveness in any student's resume.
The overall mission of SPJ is stated on the official website, http://spj.org, which defines the national society as "dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty."
Lerner has been a member of the society since 1999.
"It's partly an organization that is for the promotion of good journalism," he said. "The SPJ national organization does a lot of fighting for first amendment rights. The student chapter could do that as well."
It takes two academic years for a chapter to be officially instilled at Marist.
"In the first year, what we're looking to do is to gage student interest," Lerner said. "We need to gather 10 or 15 members who will publicly declare their interest. At least five must be willing to serve as officers." In order for this chapter to even become legitimate, enough students at Marist must show interest in it.
Once enough students are interested, Lerner explained what occurs next.
"We petition the SPJ national headquarters for the inauguration packet and for a year there would be a provisional chapter here," he said. "After a year, we would apply and if we are accepted, we are official."
Holmes believes that this trial year will prove to be successful.
"It's tough to start up a whole new chapter here, but I think we have enough support to get it started," he said.
Holmes, a journalism major, has a strong interest in pursuing journalism as a future career, but he doesn't know exactly what he wants to do.
"I've always wanted to write," Holmes said. "Journalism is a good way to get your voice out there."
He was introduced to the idea of a student chapter of SPJ by Lerner.
"Professor Lerner taught one of my classes and now he's my advisor this year," Holmes said. "He pitched this idea to me in the first couple of weeks of school. I never even heard of SPJ until he told me about it."
Students interested in learning more about SPJ should attend the meeting on Oct. 31 or contact Kevin Lerner at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.