Donna Wertalik's office holds an eclectic assortment of plaques, awards and pictures. Each item highlights a key moment in her life — a unique fabric of her personality.
Yet it was the vibrant, colorful painting behind her desk, not the assortment of awards, that commanded attention. “Follow your dreams,” the painting proclaimed, with majestic butterflies floating softly beneath the script.
The painting’s theme captures the hard work and dedication that brought Wertalik the various plaques and awards that hang on the wall. Wertalik, a marketing instructor, is continuing to follow her dream of reshaping the image of the Pamplin College of Business through an initiative she started over a year ago: Pamplin ReInventing Social Media.
“The goal of PRISM is to find a voice for the Pamplin College of Business,” Wertalik said. “We want to be professional, but connect personally with students and the community. At Virginia Tech, we invent the future, but at Pamplin, we are the future.”
PRISM’s vision began with market research of other leading business schools, nationally and locally — such as Harvard, Virginia and George Mason — to see what the status of the competition was.
“The key to comparing with other universities is to see what opportunities we could make,” Wertalik said. “But we have a community like no other, and no other schools can say that.”
Investing in growth
Since its inception over a year ago, PRISM has grown substantially in its social media efforts and student body awareness.
PRISM is now active on the main social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin=0 and blog sites, and its presence continues to grow. PRISM’s Twitter followers alone have increased by 470 percent.
The student body interest has also grown from 12 to 45 members at its peak last year. The organization currently has 30 members, which Wertalik describes as a more sustainable number to accomplish the organization’s desired goals.
“We have truly grown into a functional media organization,” Wertalik said.
Tara Petrucci, PRISM’s Co-Chief Marketing Officer, joined the organization a year ago as a Social Media Officer.
“I have always loved Social Media, so PRISM was a great outlet for me to gain experience,” Petrucci said.
Since joining PRISM, Petrucci has been able to witness the organization’s growth first hand — but she does not want to stop there. She is looking forward to new organizational initiatives that could propel its success.
“We are constantly pulling in new faces, new talents,” Petrucci said. “We are also rebuilding Pamplin’s website. It is remarkable because it is all the students doing this.”
The launch of Pamplin’s new website is set for Oct.17.
‘It’s a team effort’
While PRISM was created in the marketing department for the purposes of propelling the image of the business school, the organization requires interdisciplinary collaboration.
Advancing its social media presence requires partnership among marketing, communication, graphic design, computer science, engineering and business students, to name a few.
“I came from an industry where we all work together. In academia, however, you have separations among colleges — silos,” Wertalik said. “We thought of PRISM as an opportunity to create an organization open to any student with creativity and interest.”
One of PRISM’s interdisciplinary efforts last year was its work with Relay for Life, one of Tech’s largest fundraising efforts, which benefits the American Cancer Society.
The relationship between the two organizations spawned out of a PRISM student who was actively involved with Relay; she envisioned the impact that sending live tweets from the night could have on the Tech community.
“[The partnership] gave Relay for Life a stronger voice in social media, and it introduced PRISM to the community on a larger scale,” Wertalik said.
Since Relay for Life, PRISM has begun other noteworthy partnerships with interested organizations, including the Tech women’s basketball team.
“The initiative is to highlight players and connect them with the community,” Wertalik said. “There is also an aspect of giving young women the capacity to succeed.”