National Committee Spotlight: Diversity and Inclusion

"National Committee Spotlight- Diversity and Inclusion" graphic with Haniya Shariff headshot

This article is part of our National Committee Spotlight series. This series features our current National Committee reflecting on their experience and offering insights into their respective roles as we approach our National Elections and Leadership Assembly. To learn more about running for National Committee, click here.

Haniya Shariff – Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion

What is your role? Give us a brief description of what you do in your role.

My role as vice president of diversity and inclusion is to strategically promote D&I across the Society and position PRSSA as a model for the communications profession. I help share educational content, assist PRSA with scholarship and fundraising efforts, and with the help of my subcommittee, create empowering events and initiatives for our members.

What does a typical day look like for you as a PRSSA National Committee member?

D&I is always changing, which means that each day looks different. Tasks could range from researching certain topics or issues, to assisting with national or international Chapter D&I efforts, to gathering content for our D&I-focused social media campaigns.

The days I love most are collaborating with my National Committee members to figure out what will make the biggest difference for our members — and then catching up with each other about our own personal lives. I’m truly blessed to be working with such compassionate people.

What has been your favorite project/initiative to work on so far?

So far my favorite project, with the help of Katy Belanger and Andrea Gils Monzon, PRSA’s D&I Committee co-chair, has been co-coordinating the National Native American Heritage Month event. We fostered a real, productive, and informative conversation with our three panel speakers about combating the misconceptions and overcoming challenges that Indian country faces.

As someone who loves to meet new people, I’ve also held several virtual meet and greets for our Chapter D&I leaders to connect, share resources, and discuss their experiences working in the D&I role. These conversations are meant to be reassuring and empowering since D&I can often be a challenging position.

If you’re a director of D&I who wants to meet others in the same role, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to connect you with some new friends!

What has been the most challenging aspect of your role so far?

Staying adaptable to the ever-changing trends of diversity and inclusion. Almost one year ago, during the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, companies were expected to release timely statements. Now, being quick to release a statement doesn’t come across as authentic — and justifiably so, depending on the situation. This is a field and a journey that changes so quickly. It’s not exactly “tangible” either, which makes it difficult for someone like me who gets excited about hands-on work.

What advice would you share with your future successor?

  1. Goals change, so keep reevaluating them to refine your vision.
  2. You will probably make mistakes, so always turn them into learning experiences, and treat yourself with some compassion.
  3. Speaking of making mistakes, don’t let that scare you. Embrace this role! It takes courage to do it.

Anything else you would like to share?

I’m always amazed by the impact and importance of my position’s platform. Getting to know so many PRSSA members and sharing their unique experiences with the Society has been so fun and fulfilling.

I encourage anyone who is interested in making a positive impact across PRSSA to apply for this position — you won’t regret it!

Lightning Round

Favorite hobby? Relaxing with a good book and learning about astrology (I’m a July Cancer!)

Favorite app? Twitter.

Favorite TV show/movie/video game?

I have so many favorite TV shows, like “New Girl” and “Avatar the Last Airbender”, but I recently fell in love with “Bridgerton”.

As for video games, I love Super Smash, Animal Crossing, and Halo 3. Nintendogs was one of the best, too, but it’s been years since I’ve played. I wonder how my pups are doing…

Favorite music artist? Ariana Grande

Favorite quote/piece of advice: “Turn your wounds into wisdom.” — Oprah Winfrey

Zach Ferenchak

Zach Ferenchak, 2020–2021 vice president of brand engagement, is a senior at Capital University, a private university in Columbus, Ohio. He is majoring in emerging media with an emphasis in public relations and minors in journalism and marketing. In his free time, Ferenchak can be found obsessing over the latest gadget or video game, exploring a coffee shop with friends, or going on a trail run. He hopes to elevate the voices of all PRSSA members through the organization’s various brand platforms. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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