My PRSSA and FINN Partners Journey

ICYMI: Check out The PRSSA and Finn Partners Program Experience – Part 1

I was first introduced to public relations in one of my news writing classes at the University of North Texas. As a broadcast journalism major, our assignment was to write a press release. It didn’t mean much then, but when I began taking higher-level broadcast courses I discovered that broadcast journalism wasn’t the route for me. I was certain that I wanted to change my major, but I had no idea which way to go. It didn’t occur to me that the major I’d love was right there in front of me.

As a Kenyan immigrant, the importance of education and its route to success were instilled in me from a very young age. It’s the “American Dream,” and it’s put a lot of pressure on me growing up. I’m also a first-generation college student, which means telling my mother that I was unsure of what I wanted to do in my career was not an easy conversation to initiate.

One thing I knew was that I still wanted to incorporate writing into my future career, yet the majority of my relatives are in the medical field. This made my passion for writing an anomaly. Meanwhile, my uncertainty about the future loomed over me and kept me up for many nights until I started to look for a solution.

After conducting heavy research, I noticed that I was very drawn to public relations and finally gave it more attention. I watched countless “Day in the Life of a PR Professional” videos on YouTube, which sparked a good feeling inside me that told me I’d found my new career path.

So far, as a new public relations major, everything feels so right and I no longer have doubts about my future. I aspire to join the circle of influential Black women in public relations and pave the way for many more in a field that is lacking in our representation.

To make this dream come true, I recently joined UNT PRSSA in a very unexpected, but amazing, way. A few weeks ago, PRSSA National held a giveaway for three free PRSSA memberships in honor of Random Acts of Kindness Day.

Prior to this, I had never won a giveaway and I figured my odds of winning were very slim. To my surprise, I was among three students that won the memberships. I’m beyond thankful that this happened and it’s made me even more excited about my journey with PRSSA.

As a new member, I’ve only attended one PRSSA meeting at the University of North Texas’ PRSSA Chapter, and I already loved my experience. Every member was so kind, and the guest speaker, Katy Belanger, vice president of digital communications for PRSSA National, shared her experience and how PRSSA has positively impacted both her personal and professional life.

Now, thanks to Haniya Shariff, the current vice president of diversity and inclusion for National, I was able to partake in the PRSSA and Finn Partners internship preview and mentorship program. It was a two-day program intended to address the lack of diversity in the public relations industry and provide some guidance on how PRSSA’s members of color can launch their careers.

I learned so much from the panels that we were presented. My favorite bit by far was a hands-on campaign brainstorm that took place on day two of the program. The participants were placed in small groups and had the task of figuring out how the mattress company Sealy can reach millennials and Gen Z. My group’s chemistry was amazing, and our final result was that of a great collaborative effort. The activity felt like a glimpse into the future.

Participants in the program were also partnered up with a mentor from Finn Partners, who guided us throughout the experience. My mentor, Michelle Seiling, was incredibly helpful and even connected me to some of her colleagues. Through her I was able to have a conversation with Kelly Gibson about working for nonprofits in public relations, which I’m interested in doing in the future. I also had the opportunity to speak with Ceara Thompson, a recent graduate, about the process of looking for work right after graduating college. As someone who is still in college, it was great to get some insight into how to navigate post-graduate life in terms of starting your career.

This experience was amazing and I’m so thankful I was able to partake in it. I’m very excited for what else is to come in PRSSA including forming a community within my Chapter and hopefully tapping into the National sector.

Michelle Monari is a sophomore majoring in public relations and double minoring in marketing and African American studies at the University of North Texas. She spends her time reading, staying up to date with current trends on social media or hanging out with her friends and family. Inspired by the industry’s work, she aspires to join the amazing Black public relations professionals in the field. 

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