02/08/2020 ASHLAND, OH —Ashland University senior Bella Pacinelli has become one of fewer than 500 public relations students nationwide to successfully complete and pass the Universal Accrediting Board Certificate in Principles of Public Relations Exam. She is the first AU student to achieve this honor.
After completing 10 hours of course modules that included lessons on campaign design and development, communication theories and models, media relations, ethics, research methods, information literacy, strategic social media, and crisis communication, Pacinelli joins the elite group of students who have earned this certificate.
Completing the UAB exam was not initially on her agenda until a few months ago when she approached AU Communication Studies Professor Shawn Orr about what her job opportunities post-graduation might include. Though Pacinelli is a journalism major, she was not sure if she wanted to jump into that field right away.
Knowing that Pacinelli is minoring in public relations, Orr proposed the idea of taking the UAB exam as a way to stand out from other students and gain a bit more knowledge in the field since she had not taken some of the courses that PR majors typically take. After discussing the idea with her close family and friends, it did not take long until Pacinelli was fully on board to take the exam.
There were several steps to the process that included becoming a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America, having Orr register her for the course, paying a course fee, completing the 13 modules and lastly scheduling and completing the final exam at a testing center.
“I was really nervous,” Pacinelli said. “I put a lot of money into it and I put a lot of time into it. At the end of last semester, that’s what I spent my time doing. Plus I got COVID over break and I was so worried I wasn’t going to be recovered in time to take the test. It was definitely stressful and I just wanted to get it over with. I felt pretty confident taking it though.”
After going through the entire process, it made it much more clear to her that public relations was a career that she could see herself in post-graduation.
“I wanted to see if going through all of that information and learning it and studying it is something that I would want to do in the future and to see if PR and communications was for me,” she said. “That was also another reason why I took it and what I want to get out of it is knowing whether or not that is an avenue that I would like to take.”
Once Orr heard that Pacinelli had passed the exam, she was proud of her accomplishment and said she had expected nothing less.
“Bella is an exceptional student,” Orr said. “She always goes above and beyond, inside and outside of the classroom. It is just another piece of evidence that the curriculum for public relations is strong at Ashland University. Even as a student who was a PR minor, she is learning the key foundational elements for being a public relations professional.”
In addition to Pacinelli being one of fewer 500 PR students to pass this exam, AU will now be listed on the PRSA, PRSSA, and Universal Accrediting Board (which comprises nine public relations professional organizations) websites and within the directory as a participating university.
“It was a great moment of saying the curriculum we are teaching now is the right curriculum and it’s going to help our students be marketable,” Orr said. “I was also very proud of Bella’s efforts because it’s not an easy exam which is why so few students actually pass it and so few universities sponsor it because you really have to have a strong curriculum.”
Pacinelli herself was surprised to hear how few students have passed this exam and even felt like she was not worthy of such an honor.
“It feels strange being in such a small group of people when I didn’t realize that that’s what I wanted to do until like three months ago,” she said. “At the same time it’s exciting because hearing that statistic definitely makes me confident and hopeful that I will be able to get a job out of college.”
When it comes down to it, Pacinelli is proud of herself and the work that she put in to achieve this accomplishment. For future students who may have an interest in taking the exam, Pacinelli encourages it wholeheartedly.
“If this is something that you think will help your future, it’s okay to invest in yourself and do that,” she said. “Just look at it as an opportunity to further your career.”
Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.###