What Winning the Ofield Dukes Multicultural Student Award Did for Me

Rikki Kyle receiving the Ofield Dukes Multicultural Student Award at the PRSSA 2019 International Conference (photo: PRSSA)

Like a lot of students entering their freshman year of college, I was nervous but excited to start. Undecided in my major, I was unsure of what exactly I wanted to be involved in. At the freshman student involvement fair, I came across the PRSSA table where the executive board enthusiastically went on about all of the great things PRSSA had to offer. I accepted their invitation to attend an open Chapter meeting where an American University professor came to speak about her experience as a public relations professional in the entertainment industry. She spoke about attending red carpet events, creating run-of-shows and working with A-list celebrities. I now wondered if I could have a future in public relations. After all, college is the best time to explore yourself, find your interests and passions, and most importantly plan the road map to your future. I decided that public relations was going to be my major, and to date, this is the best decision I have made.

Initially I was just a member, but when the position for director of diversity and inclusion remained vacant on the executive board, I thought to myself, “What another great opportunity.” I applied for the position and was selected to serve in the role. As the only freshman on the executive board, I was reluctant and questioned if I had enough experience to perform in the role. This opportunity practically fell at my feet, so I took it. I ran programs, networked and traveled during my tenure as D&I director. This by far was my favorite part of college.

The PRSA Foundation offers a number of scholarships and awards to support and celebrate students in public relations. I applied for and received the prestigious Ofield Dukes Multicultural Student Award. This award recognizes a student who reflects Ofield Dukes’ values for excellence in the ethical practice of public relations. Winning this award encouraged me to learn more about Mr. Dukes. I read his autobiography and learned about the legacy of one of the nation’s most successful African American public relations professionals. I also learned that Ofield Dukes worked as an adjunct professor at my very university, in our School of Communications. I saw myself in Dukes and aspired to carry on his legacy by being a force in the industry and blazing a path in public relations.

I learned many lessons and gained a lot of experience from being a part of PRSSA, lessons that have now become ingrained in the road map to my future. The most important one I learned from the late and great Ofield Dukes: “There is no substitution for experience.” So take advantage of every opportunity you can as the lessons and skills you learn from them will only make the foundation for your future stronger.

Visit the PRSSA website o apply for the Ofield Dukes Multicultural Student Award and other PRSSA scholarships and awards, many of which are due on May 31, 2020. Contact McQue Wilson, vice president of member services, for more information.

Rikki Kyle is a junior studying public relations and strategic communications with a minor in business and entertainment. She attends American University in Washington, D.C. Her goal is to graduate in 2021 and land a job in corporate communications in the entertainment industry.

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