Pipeline Initiative to Focus on Public Relations in its First Year in Partnership with the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and The University of Alabama

CMA has announced details of its inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship, a program designed to provide a select group of students with an immersive experience in the Country Music industry. In partnership with the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and The University of Alabama, with additional collegiate partners including The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Belmont University, the program is set to launch Spring 2023. This fellowship is open to all applicants and students from underrepresented communities are strongly encouraged to apply. The application to apply for the fellowship is open today through Friday, Feb. 24 at

In its first offering, the CMA Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship will provide students with an insider look into CMA’s Communications team in the weeks leading into the 50th anniversary of CMA Fest, June 8-11, 2023. Participants will begin working remotely with CMA’s Communications team in April, taking part in various planning meetings with cross-departmental teams and industry partners before joining CMA team members in Nashville in the weeks leading into the event. Following CMA Fest, each participant will take part in a six-week assignment with a Country Music publicity partner, allowing students to further gain real world experience in the industry.

CMA has tapped PR executive and co-founder of My Publicist Is Black, Trell Thomas, to match each participant with an industry expert who will serve as a mentor throughout the fellowship. In addition, students will participate in sessions and various programming with leading voices in the field as well as Nashville-based media and talent partners.

“We recognize that in order for our industry to further build an inclusive future, we have to create a multitude of pipelines for diverse talent to reach us,” says Tiffany Kerns, CMA Vice President, Industry Relations & Philanthropy. “Through our work with our collegiate development program, CMA EDU, we have had the opportunity to work with some incredible partners at universities across the country, and I am thrilled to have been able to develop this truly special program alongside Dr. Kenon Brown. While this inaugural fellowship will focus on the public relations field, our goal is to develop future programs that highlight even more professions within the Country Music industry.”

“PR professionals in the Country Music industry carry a significant amount of influence, which makes it increasingly important that the professionals recruited to fill these positions reflect not only the diverse talent and audiences they represent, but also the growing diversity of the U.S. population,” says Mia McNeal, CMA Senior Director, Industry Relations & Inclusion. “We know that having diverse candidates will bring different perspectives to strategies that will ultimately strengthen the Country Music industry. By partnering with several companies and individuals within our business, we aim to build widespread engagement and future opportunity within Country Music.”

“In my years of collaborating alongside CMA, I’ve known the organization to be incredibly intentional around the need for diversity and inclusion behind the scenes,” says Dr. Brown, The University of Alabama Associate Professor, Advertising and Public Relations and the fellowship’s managing faculty member. “This fellowship is just one of the many ways that the organization is providing resources to continue making change happen. I know first-hand the impact a program like this can have on students from underrepresented backgrounds, and I’m excited to watch the participants begin their journeys to becoming future leaders in Country Music. My deepest gratitude to CMA for locking arms with myself and our additional collegiate partners to create such a rewarding experience for students.”

Students eligible for the fellowship must attend The University of Alabama, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville or Belmont University and must be an incoming junior or senior majoring in public relations, advertising, journalism, business or a related field. All participants will receive compensation for their work in addition to a stipend to cover living expenses while in Nashville. An advisory committee comprised of Dr. Brown, select faculty representatives from the university partners, and CMA staff members will review all applications.


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