#PlankMentor Honoree Panel Inspires Students to Succeed

Courtesy of Ron Culp

Event: #PlankMentor, DePaul University

Presenters: Patrick Ford, Burson Marsteller; Wendi Strong, USAA; Andy Polansky, Weber Shandwick; Lynne Sallot, University of Georgia; Jose Rivera, California State University, San Bernardino

Recap: Before the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations’ fifth annual Milestones in Mentoring celebration on Oct. 30, public relations students from across the country gathered in Chicago at DePaul University for an exclusive panel discussion with this year’s honorees.

The discussion started with an introduction by DePaul’s public relations graduate program director Ron Culp. Next, the panelists responded to individual questions by a student representative from each university present at the event. Finally, the floor was opened to all students in attendance for a Q&A.

With collectively more than 50 years experience in the industry, the panelists’ advice to the students covered everything from résumés to full-blown campaigns.

However, a piece of advice that resonated was when Stephanie Swiatek of DePaul University asked the panel what the future holds for public relations professionals?  Panelist Wendi Strong responded, “I hope we get over our self-esteem issue. We need to begin to feel, understand and believe that we deserve a seat at the C-suite table.”

Strong’s advice comes at a valuable time when the industry of public relations is truly beginning to come into its own. It is important for us to realize as students that we no longer stand in the shadow of journalism, advertising or marketing but rather as our own distinctive entity. As a future public relations professional, I left the panel feeling inspired that we all have the potential for greatness in our industry. All it takes is a little hard work, passion and of course, a mentor.


  • Lead quietly by example.
  • Everything you do whether it’s an email or a campaign matters.
  • When you’re looking for a job, recruit the agency — don’t wait for it to recruit you.
  • Always have a hobby or topic to talk about in a business setting that is unique and interesting. E.g., kayaking or wine collecting.
  • If you’re a junior level employee with a new idea, seek out senior level leadership.


Alex Sobczak is a junior studying public relations with a minor in marketing. She is currently the vice president of Chapter programming for DePaul University’s PRSSA. Follow Alex on Twitter or connect with Alex on LinkedIn

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