Nov. 4, 2019  

Journalists Return to University of Miami to Put MBA Students to the Test

Journalists once again put University of Miami MBA students to the test during the school’s second annual Miami Leadership Program.

As a part of the grueling two-day program, students are split into teams to be a part of a company board dealing with a corporate crisis. In the last activity, they are given just 30 minutes notice that they will be facing journalists brought together by SPJ Florida in a press conference.

“SPJ Florida is a critical partner in the success and fun of the school’s annual Miami Leadership Challenge,” says Daniel Hicks, a lecturer at the UM Business School and adjunct faculty member of the School of Communication. “In particular, our MBA students look forward to the press conference portion of the event because they get a chance to witness real journalists at work. 

SPJ Florida gathered a group of working journalists to participate in the conference on Oct. 26, while lobbing questions at the board regarding a hurricane that hit a Caribbean island where the company’s medical school was located. The case was based on the real-life crisis of Ross University on the island of Dominica after it was hit by Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm.

The journalists were Zak Bennett, a freelance photographer; Michael d’Oliveira, editor in chief of The Pelican; Stephen Feller, beats reporter for UPI; Christiana Lilly, managing editor at Luxe Interiors + Design and SPJ Florida immediate past president; Lulu Ramadan, a reporter for the Palm Beach Post and the vice president of programming at SPJ Florida; and Rick Richardson, publisher of Rise News. The group also included an embedded public relations pro, Britt Peemoller, the senior marketing manager at Microsoft who served as a PIO for the American REd Cross during 9/11. She was able to give feedback on how the students conducted the press conference and handling the press during a crisis.

On top of managing probing questions from the group, the students also dealt with rapid-fire photos from Bennett, a rolling camera by Richardson, and questions in Spanish by Peemoller.

“Competition finalists have to think fast on their feet. SPJ’s involvement raises the quality of the overall experience,” Hicks says.

Last year, SPJ Florida won Large Chapter of the Year in a three-way tie. During the ceremony, the judges mentioned the chapter’s collaboration with the University of Miami’s MBA program.

“Part of our mission at SPJ is to educate non-journalists about journalism, and this was the perfect opportunity to meet with students who will one day serve on corporate boards and have to deal with the press,” Lilly says. 

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