By John Ensslin | July 27th, 2008
Reviving a student chapter in Des Moines
By Kate Fazzini
Lindsey Purificato, a senior journalism student at Des Moines-based Drake University, helped breath life into a student chapter that was struggling for several years.
The chapter, which had essentially “died out,” got her attention when she set out to find a journalism fraternity at Drake. Purificato had noticed that her friends majoring in business and pre-law had their own fraternities; she asked around about the chapter, and learned from faculty advisors that it had been the victim of a years-long lack of interest. She was told she would need to get 10 people interested in the program to form a chapter from scratch – soon enough, she had a list of 25 “solid people” who were ready to join.
By the time the group had their first official meeting in March 2007, 50 to 60 people showed up. At last count, the chapter had around 65 members.
“We split up (the recruiting work) between the board members. Everyone was really excited, they wanted to know ‘how does it work,’ ‘what can we do,’” she said.
One of the main drivers of the chapter’s success has been in pricing, she said. The SPJ chapter has positioned itself as, simply, less expensive than the other campus professional fraternities, which has helped in convincing cash-strapped journalism students to join.
“‘Dues’ is a big question for college students. National dues are $36, and chapter dues are $14. That made it an easy $50 for everybody,” she said.
The group helped arrange a number of mixers and learning sessions. The latter were aided by Iowa’s primary caucuses held last year. Student attendance at a “steak fry” with John Edwards, a speech by Barack Obama and other events were facilitated with help from faculty members. Advisor Janet Keefer helped guide the reformation of the chapter, in part by helping keep chapter members informed of these events.
“They’re definitely very helpful. They let me know, so I can let the members know (about big events in the Des Moines area),” Purificato said. “Then we can write them up for the school paper.”
The fledgling group has executed several events of its own, included a mini “convention” featuring local professionals from newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, public relations and advertising, who gave presentations for the journalism majors. Students brought resumes for review by the professionals. The group also organized cross-campus events.
“With the professional pre-law fraternity, we have done bonding things – ice skating, bowling, social get-togethers,” she said.
One immediate goal for the chapter, she added, is to make better connections with local professionals – particularly on the magazine side – as well as at local SPJ Pro chapters. Purificato will be a senior, with a double major in Internet and Broadcast news. Her main hope is that the chapter will continue going strong after her graduation.
SPJ by the numbers
Membership this week 9,524
Membership one month ago 9,559
Membership one year ago 8,856