We hear a lot about senior PR professionals serving as role models, but I discovered many impressive student role models at the PRSSA national conference in Washington, DC this week. A couple dozen of them received scholarships at the PRSSA awards dinner Monday night, but you could hear murmurs of amazement when the credentials of Southern Methodist senior Sana Merchant were read to her 800 peers.
Sana won the 2010 Marcia Silverman Minority Student Award, a $5,000 scholarship presented by Ogilvy PR to a minority senior college student who demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, leadership skills and a commitment to entering the public relations profession. Seconds later, Sana won the $3,000 John D. Graham Scholarship for high-potential students who are preparing for PR careers.
In saluting Sana, a SMU Corporate Communications and Public Affairs major, Fleishman-Hillard SVP Mary O’Connor LoJacono cited Sana’s three internships ranging from a Dallas PR agency to an events production firm and the Dallas Morning News. On campus, Sana is the philanthropy chair and house manager of her sorority, plus she is president of the SMU chapter of PRSSA and president of the SMU Indian Students Association. She was the Michael Jordan brand ambassador at the NBA All-Star Games in 2010, and is a member of the SMU Program Council, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and the SMU Muslim Students Association–all while working two paying jobs to help with tuition and maintaining a high GPA. Oh, yes, she also speaks six languages.
Mary O’Connor LoJacono explained this is quite an accomplishment for a member of a traditional Indian family whose children are expected to grow up to be medical doctors. “Sana courageously bucked that trend when she discovered at SMU that she had a zest for human communication and that she preferred working with people, not their organs.”
The two runners up for the Graham Scholarship weren’t slackers either. Phyllis McLemore has a near perfect GPA at Oklahoma State University, Tulsa. She leads fundraising campaigns to help the environment, while applying her grantsmanship to winning funds to support on- and off-campus educational activities and humanitarian efforts. Besides being politically active, Phyllis is president of the Association for Women in Communications and the Society of Professional Journalists and is Vice President of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.
Jamienne Noell Scott, a senior at Ohio Northern University, was the second runner up. She is active in the ONU chapter of PRSSA and serves as Student Senate Secretary of Communications and is a member of the student-run PR firm, Vision Communications. She helped the U.S. Census with an on-campus educational awareness campaign. She was on the Dean’s List all four years and is a member of the Mortar Board National College Senior Society.
I wish the PRSSA Awards program atmosphere could be bundled and sold to agencies and corporations wanting to inject energy and enthusiam into their organizations. It was an inspiring evening. Congratulations to all scholarship recipients.