Professor of public relations at Southeast Missouri State University Dr. Susan Gonders has been awarded the Outstanding Educator Award by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Gonders said, “I have been honored and grateful for awards like the Lifetime Champion induction and other recognitions from PRSA, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and Southeast Missouri State University, but I long considered the PRSA Outstanding Educator Award to be an impossible dream.”
“This is the most gratifying recognition I can imagine, but more significant to me is the friendship and support of the colleagues who made this happen,” she said.
PRSA awards the Outstanding Educator Award to a member with at least 20 years of experience in public relations who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of public relations education through teaching at the college level.
Gonders’ extensive experience in public relations made her a strong candidate for the award.
Gonders began her career by working in communications in Oklahoma with more than 300 clients over two decades. She then changed her career path when she came to Southeast in 1994 as coordinator of the academic program in public relations and has served in a variety of faculty positions.
Additionally, she has served five years on the PRSA Educators Academy Executive Committee and is currently completing 14 years on the PRSA Educational Affairs Committee. In 2007, she served as coordinator of Certification in Education for Public Relations on Educational Affairs and in 2020, became co-chair of Educational Affairs.
In 2010, she was named a Lifetime Champion for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and was the only inductee and one of fewer than 50 total who have been recognized for a lifetime body of work on behalf of public relations students worldwide.
She has also served on the board of the Public Relations Division (PRD) of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) for 16 years (1998-2014), including as head of the division in 2009, and continues to serve on the PRD Past Heads Council.
During her time at Southeast, she has advised the Delta Nu Chapter of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority for 25 years (1995-2020) and the Southeast Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America for 26 years (1994-2020). She helped with the review process that helped Southeast earn accreditation through Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). She also played a pivotal role in making Southeast the first program in Missouri to earn Certification in Education for Public Relations (CEPR) through PRSA.
Dr. Pam Parry, professor of mass media at Southeast, compiled an application packet on Gonders’ behalf that included letters of endorsement from former PRSA presidents or chief executive officers, including John Paluszek, Gary McCormick and Mickey Nall.
Southeast faculty who have worked with Gonders throughout her career at the University are excited to see her honored with the Outstanding Educator Award.
Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck, chair of Southeast’s Department of Mass Media, said, “I am so excited for Susan. She has brought international recognition to our department as she has led efforts to shape public relations education. She has dedicated more than a decade to establishing and awarding certification for public relations education. Her work is internationally acclaimed, and she is the expert in the field. It makes perfect sense that she is this year’s honoree.”
Rhonda Weller-Stilson, dean of the Holland College of Arts and Media, said, “It is wonderful to see someone that has given so much to the discipline receive recognition. What makes her an outstanding educator is that she cares deeply about her students and wants to see them all succeed. You only have to talk to her for a few moments to know she is passionate about Southeast and what she does.”