[Editorial] How a Programmer Became Your Editor in Chief

The PRSSA 2019-2020 National Committee

If you would have told me in high school that I would major in public relations, you would have received a response asking what that was. Now you are reading an editorial I wrote while overseeing the blog of an organization for students interested in communications. And at least one person believes in my passion for that organization (thank you for the vote of confidence, Olivia).

I would not be majoring in public relations, and most likely not in this role, if I had not been exposed to PRSSA while studying computer science at Rochester Institute of Technology. RIT requires students to choose a concentration or immersion, like a minor but with fewer classes. Wanting to gain personable skills not typically expected of programmers, I chose a focus in advertising and public relations. This would grow into an actual minor.

While in the minor, I took a one-credit public relations practicum course that doubled as the meetings for the RIT Chapter of PRSSA. This experience solidified what I had been feeling for a few semesters at that point: I enjoyed public relations and could see myself building a career in this discipline. I would then reluctantly leave the “Brick City” campus, returning to my hometown and studying public relations in a Collegiate Gothic styled and landmarked building at City College of New York (CCNY).

Many things would start to make sense at this point. Perhaps there was something to my receiving a “distinguished journalism” award in elementary school after using my free time to write a newspaper. Maybe my middle school English teacher was on to something when she recognized a developing writing and storytelling ability in me. It’s possible that I was just practicing when I spent hours leisurely thinking about how the Metropolitan Transportation Authority could more clearly communicate service patterns to riders of the New York City subway. I could accept that there was a place for my technical mind that did not have to be explicitly in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics space.

As I got involved with CCNY PRSSA, it would become apparent that I was not alone. Many of my Chapter’s members, including both the current and immediate past presidents, started off in STEM programs. Other Chapters have had members with similar experiences. With PRSSA, we can all come together, bringing in our previous experiences and using our technical skills in the communications world alongside people who more naturally gravitated towards the industry. For me, my experience in web and mobile design helps me to build on the public relations side of good search engine optimization practices. Other people may bring their appreciation for data analytics or programming to the table. I could come up with other examples but I will leave that to others to tell their own stories.

Attending RIT, an institution to which I owe a sincere debt of gratitude, I never would have imagined myself in a leadership role for a society like PRSSA. But now, I cannot imagine it any other way.

Do you have a story to share? Want to talk about trends in the industry? Time to get writing experience but not sure what to write yet? Email me at progressions@prsa.org and we can work to make it happen!

photo of Terrell F. MerrittTerrell F. Merritt is the PRSSA 2019-2020 vice president of brand engagement and serves as the editor in chief of Progressions. Merritt is a senior studying advertising and public relations at City College of New York’s Department of Media and Communication Arts. Follow them on Twitter @terrellfmerritt and connect with them on LinkedIn.

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