Florida Gulf Coast University’s student chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association hosted a nonprofit panel discussion on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, from 5-6:15 p.m. in Lutgert Hall, Room 2202, featuring Southwest Florida’s nonprofit public relations professionals who shared their expertise with FGCU’s PR students.

Panelists included: Sarah Owen, CEO, Community Cooperative Ministries, Inc. also known as CCMI; Chelsea Birczak, public relations director, Lee County Alliance for the Arts; Kirsten O’Donnell, director of public relations and marketing, Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida; Melissa Simontis, director of development, PACE Center for Girls; Connie Ramos-Williams, CEO and president, CONRIC Holdings, LLC; and Maran Hilgendorf , communications manager, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. Panelists shared career tips, professional experience, internship advice and Service Learning opportunities at multiple nonprofit agencies throughout Southwest Florida.

Communication and public relations students know the value of gaining professional experience, while in school, is imperative to the start a successful career. “Bringing nonprofit PR professionals to our campus for these informal panel discussions is a wonderful way to connect our public relations students to these industry leaders on the many ways in which students can benefit from being involved with these organizations and how local organizations can benefit from student involvement,” said David Simmons, president, FGCU’s FPRA student chapter. “It’s a great opportunity for students to network for future internships and jobs; additionally, it’s a great opportunity for students to see how they can become more involved with our Southwest Florida nonprofit community.”