Navigating ICON 2023: My Reflection and Insights as a PRSA Foundation Travel Grant Recipient

In the connected community of public relations and communications professionals, PRSSA ICON 2023 in Nashville, Tenn. offered a unique platform for diverse voices to connect, interact and inspire. Here are my reflections from this year’s Conference.

I want to express my gratitude to former Immediate Past President Aerial Ellis, Ed.D., who recognized me as one of the 10 selected travel grant recipients during the PRSSA Awards Breakfast: Tennessee Toast. This acknowledgment highlighted the achievements of scholars like me and was a special moment.

A shout-out to my PRSSA Faculty Adviser, Professor Jolyn Matsumuro. Her recommendation letter affirmed that my “…time spent at ICON will be transformative.”

Exploring New Horizons

I represented my Chapter at ICON 2023, and it was still a transformative experience. I was welcomed by the PRSSA community even before the Conference officially started. When I decided to eat at Monell’s at the Manor, I saw a sign at the entrance that read, “Enter as strangers, leave as friends.” Everyone’s generosity and the family-style authentic Southern Soul meal left an incredibly positive impact. 

Meeting a Remarkable Roommate

My roommate, Josefina Badano, is from the UADE PRSSA Argentina Chapter. She’s a unique fashionista who takes great pride in her homeland’s culture, as evidenced by her passion for fútbol, her reverence for the national flag, and her love for delightful treats like dulce de leche. I will remember her vibrant personality and enthusiasm during our time together at the PRSSA International Conference.

Fostering Honest Discussions to Enhance PRSSA Chapters

At the PRSSA Leadership Recognition Luncheon, I engaged in candid discussions with both familiar faces and new acquaintances from various Chapters, including but not limited, to Arizona State University, California State University of Fresno, California State University of Fullerton, Nevada State University, The University of Memphis, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, Utah Valley University, and University of Wisconsin. Our collective dialogue centered around the importance of improving PRSSA Chapter attendance, networking with peers from other school Chapters and staying connected with PRSA as we embark on our careers.

Insightful Keynote Session Takeaways

The keynote addresses at ICON were truly inspiring and motivational. Amanda Brooks, director of communications at ESPN, shared her experiences working with ESPN and their special guest collaborations with Make-A-Wish. She reminded us that every day in the PR world is unique, and it’s up to us whether external factors affect us or whether we rise above them.

Gina Laughlin, Delta Airlines vice president of Global Employee Communications, and PRSSA 2023 Hall of Fame winner, offered invaluable advice. She stressed the importance of staying curious, being resourceful, asking questions and taking initiative. She also highlighted the significance of building trust within our professional relationships and expanding our network intentionally to foster personal growth.

Scott Panksy, co-founder of Allison, captured the audience’s attention with a reference to the K-drama “Start-Up,” his personal journey into the public relations profession, and his guiding mantra, “Bring Solutions, Not Problems.” The ice-breaker activity involving red dodgeballs added a unique touch to the event. His book, “Playing Together in the Sandbox,” bore his signature for all attendees. Additionally, I acquired a signed copy of David Grossman’s book, “Heart F1rst” during the PRSSA Career Development Exhibition.

Champions for PRSSA and Mentorship

I had the privilege of enjoying a continental breakfast in the presence of fellow PRSSA Members, and PRSA Champions including Susan Walton, Ph.D., APR, and Clare Wade, APR from whom I received valuable mentorship and advice. 

Embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Conference concluded with the PRSA ICON General Session, featuring Michele Norris, the creator of “The Race Card Project.” The importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion became evident as individuals from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds shared their stories. Her message resonated with the idea of “building bridges” rather than burning them and encouraged open conversations in “brave” and “safe spaces.”

A Memorable Experience

Attending ICON 2023 was inspirational and impactful for me. The extensive network of connections I made, both with professionals and fellow PRSSA members, was invaluable.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the PRSA National Staff, PRSA Foundation, PRSSA National Committee, speakers, and the sponsors for making this Conference possible. All of these memories and valuable lessons will serve my personal growth and contribute to the community.

Nicole Pajar is a senior at California State University, Long Beach, majoring in public relations with a minor in child development and family studies. She currently holds the position of PRSSA Chapter vice president for the Spring ’23 – Fall ’23 school semester. Outside of PRSSA, Nicole has been actively involved in the CSULB Esports and Gaming Association, serving as a social media team member since January 2023. Starting in the Fall 2023 semester, she expanded her role as a merchandise intern within the organization. During the Fall 2023 semester, she is gaining experience as a public relations intern at Make-A-Wish Orange County and Inland Empire. Nicole is an advocate for mental health. She enjoys spending her free time with her Shiba Inu puppy, Stella, writing poetry and playing video games. To learn more about Nicole, you can reach out and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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