Student News

Grehan Associates turns classroom knowledge into real-world experience


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2023) — The fall semester at the University of Kentucky is off to a strong start and so is Grehan Associates, a nationally-affiliated PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) student organization that attracts top-notch students from all areas of communication and beyond. 

The organization's name pays homage to the Enoch Grehan building which was home to UK's College of Communication and Information until 2018. Grehan was one of UK's first journalism professors and was instrumental in founding the Kentucky Kernel, the university's indepedent student newspaper.

Membership in Grehan Associates provides a sense of community for students with like interests to network and fine tune their skills. Members can explore all areas of interest that fall under the communication umbrella.

Perhaps the most unique feature of Grehan Associates, is that it functions as a student run full-service marketing and communications firm for local small businesses in Lexington. Students are given the opportunity to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in real-world situations, which translates to an invaluable amount of experience they can take with them when pursuing jobs after graduation.  

MaKenzie Purdom, a junior integrated strategic communication (ISC) and sociology major from Springfield, Kentucky, currently serves as the firm director of Grehan Associates. Her main goal over this past summer was to recruit new members since all but a few members from last year graduated in May 2023. Her efforts paid off as the membership is currently up to 30.

Grehan Associates consists of five teams, and members can choose the team they want to be on, or leadership can match students to a team that best fits their interests and skill sets. 

The Creative team works on social media, website building and graphic design. 

The Public Relations team is responsible for written press releases and blogs for the website.

The Growth and Acquisition team is an internal team that seeks out new clients and members. 

Members of the Research, Insights, and Analytics team work for both Grehan Associates and their clients, handling money made through fundraising as well as marketing and analytics for clients.

The Events team plans events internally and promotional events for clients.

AnneMarie Bell, a junior ISC major from Brunswick, Ohio, is Grehan Associates’ vice president of events. She says that being a part of Grehan Associates has forced her to be confident in her abilities by actually seeing her strategies and planning come to life.

“I have always been passionate about creating strong brands that leave a lasting impression on both their consumers and their communities. Grehan does just that for Lexington, my new home,” Bell said. “I’m a firm believer that the best learning comes from firsthand experience outside of the classroom.” 

Events so far this year have included participation in K Week and Campus Ruckus. Other events include a Krispy Kreme fundraiser, information tabling in the Gatton Student Center and hosting a future Adobe Photoshop workshop.

Mattie Price, an account executive for Grehan Associates, is an ISC junior from Alpharetta, Georgia.

“I love the idea of being able to gain real world experience in PR while simultaneously supporting small business in the Lexington area. It is a unique opportunity that most universities do not offer,” she said. “Experience trumps everything, you never truly understand something until you experience it firsthand. I feel like being a part of Grehan Associates will better prepare me for working in a professional PR atmosphere.“ 

Currently, Grehan Associates serves nine clients:

  • White Willow Massage Therapy and Emporium  
  • Battle Axes, LLC 
  • Lexington Salt Cave Scripted Events  
  • Oh My! Cookie Co. 
  • The Social Vegan 
  • Luxe & Ash Candle Co. 
  • Scripted Events and Design 
  • Ancient Aromas 
  • HippoCLIN startup app 

While students are gaining experience collaborating with clients, the businesses they represent stand to gain something just as important: insight, advice and promotion of their business from some of the brightest and most creative minds about to embark on careers in their chosen field. 

“Our work is pro bono so it’s really about us gaining experience,” said Purdom. “Small businesses often have limited budgets and struggle to get into an advertising space. We help promote the business while we gain invaluable work experience. It works much like an internship, so if a member is on the executive board, in some cases, the work can be used as internship credit.” 

Sammy Tate, a junior management and marketing major from Lebanon, Kentucky, serves on the Research, Insights and Analytics team as a general member for Grehan Associates. He said what drew him into becoming involved is the work they do for the community and promoting small businesses. 

“Being part of this organization has allowed me to work with an amazing set of people for a bigger purpose than myself, it changed my perspective on marketing for small businesses and small business owners, and impacted my life as a whole tremendously,” Tate said. 

Students interested in joining Grehan Associates must submit an application and cover letter to Ansley Bayless at and CC MaKenzie Purdom at Once the applicant receives a follow-up email of interest, the student will interview with leadership and collaborate on choosing a team.

“Leading this team has been nothing short of an honor,” Purdom said.

To learn more, go to Facebook at, Instagram @grehanassociates and TikTok @grehanassociates. 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.