MEET YOUR PROFESSOR – Donna Stein, APR, Fellow PRSA
Donna Stein is an adjunct professor of public relations in the Newhouse School, where she graduated with a degree in public relations in 1978. She got her first job through the Career Development Center (CDC). Her Newhouse degree caught the attention of an alumnus, and he offered her a job. Stein started out in an agency environment, and after two years decided she wanted to try corporate. She started working for a publicly-traded company, and from there she got involved in investor relations, which has been her career now for over 30 years. She is a managing partner at Donna Stein & Partners, where she handles public relations, investor relations and corporate communications. She says her education has served her well in her career, and if she can impart some of that back to her students, that makes her happy.
Q: What is your favorite course you teach in Newhouse?
A: I have to say my most passionate course is investor relations (PRL 530). It is offered as a special topic during the spring semester to seniors and graduate students. But I love teaching the management and writing classes, as well.
A: I have a consulting business, and while it is centered predominantly on investor relations and corporate communications, we get involved in crisis situations from time to time. I never like to have one of my clients have a crisis situation, but it’s the type of work where what you do can make a big difference very quickly for a lot of different people.
Q: What is your favorite part of working in public relations?
A: I think it’s the client relationships. It’s developing professional relationships with my clients, and in all cases you usually end up developing personal relationships, as well. It’s being able to really understand where they are coming from, both personally and professionally, and identifying what it is going to take to achieve the goals they have, and helping to do that.
Q: What motivates you?
A: Doing a good job in everything that I do, especially in the classroom. I really feel at the end of the day that I want my students to get the most out of my classes as they possibly can. I hope I encourage them to think and to challenge themselves. I want them to walk out the door and focus on everything they are doing with the same enthusiasm I hope I’ve been able to impart with them in class.
Q: Did you always want to work in public relations and/or communications?
A: I started out at the Newhouse school as a journalism major. I thought I was going to be the next Brenda Starr reporter, but my first NEW 205 class was writing news stories on old, beat-up, manual typewriters, and if your fingers missed a key and fell between the cracks, and you would end up breaking your nails. So after that class I said, “I don’t think I’m a journalism major anymore.” I looked around the school, and the public relations curriculum was relatively new and sounded exciting. When I wasn’t in school, I was home working as a bartender and cocktail waitress, and I loved working with people, so I thought, “Public relations has got to be fun.”
Q: What has been your proudest moment in your communications career?
A: I’ve been really blessed. I have worked hard, but I’ve also been lucky. I think, in terms of my professional life, achieving my Fellow PRSA was a big moment in my career because it is one of the highest distinctions you can get in the field. Professor Russell was my sponsor, and her support was really special for me. Also, when I left New York and moved back to the area, Maria Russell, Dennis Kinsey and Dean Rubin asked me to come teach at Newhouse, and that was a dream come true because I had always wanted to do that.
Q: Do you have any fun fact(s) about yourself?
A: I love to swim. I used to be a competitive swimmer in high school, and I was a swim and water safety instructor, as well. I have a Jack Russell Terrier named Jack, and a Tabby kitty named Charlie.
Q: What is/are your favorite quote(s)?
A: “Dress for success.”
Q: What qualities do you think make a student successful?
A: I think any student who questions what it is they are being taught, in a very thoughtful and insightful way, is successful. Curiosity, having a drive to learn, and really understanding why we do the things we do are strong qualities, as well. If something doesn’t make sense to them, they should ask questions and think about it. Always try to look beyond what is happening right now. By the time students are in their junior year, they should kind of have a plan of what they want to continue to accomplish here at Newhouse, and then where they think they want to go right after graduation day, whether it’s graduate school, agency PR, etc. To have their own personal plan, and to work on their own personal brand, is important.
Q: What qualities do you think make a person successful?
A: I think being smart, honest and true to one’s self. And if all those things are together, they can really be successful in any career they choose.
Q: Do you have a personal message for Newhouse students?
A: We, as a school and all of the faculty members here, are trying to provide everyone with the best skill set, tools and shared experiences that we possibly can so that when you leave Newhouse you’ve really got what it takes to pursue the career of your dreams. In my case, it’s a career in public relations. It’s also important to get students to understand that once you graduate from Newhouse, you still have the whole Newhouse network to rely on, participate with, and to engage in to help you in your career as you advance through the profession.