A look back at my formative time in PRSSA and as a PRAD Student.
By: Pavitra Reddy
*Record Scratch* *Freeze Frame* – Yep, that’s me.
You’re probably wondering how I got into this situation…
As much as my world revolves around public relations now, it wasn’t always this way for me. I came into college with an undecided major and practically convinced my parents through a PowerPoint (Yes, I was that person) to let me move from the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio to the closest big city, Chicago. I argued that DePaul had an incredible political science and journalism program and that being in Chicago would only allow me to stand out and open up doors of opportunity.
As I reflect on my abundant number of mundane college applications, I may have actually had a point.
Let’s talk about that intro class….
The classes that I took fall quarter, although great, hadn’t lit a spark for me. When I went to schedule classes with my adviser for the winter, I remember describing a jumble of what I was looking for, “Something that requires writing, but can also be creative… and maybe something that also has some sort of research involved?” I was relieved when my adviser said, “Let’s sign you up for this PR class and see what happens…”
So I did. I signed up for the PRAD 255 “Intro to Public Relations” class, taught by Laura Sutphen, a first-time Adjunct Professor and then Global Head of Social Purpose at Golin. Within four classes, she had, without knowing, persuaded me to declare my major. I felt connected to the fact that she was from Cleveland, and loved hearing all the anecdotes she would share about the incredible work she was doing at Golin. It was in this class that I had been exposed to Zoom (almost 3 weeks before the world shutdown). Additionally, I learned from Laura how PR can be used as a tool to create change in the world.
As much as I loved it, I ended up getting a B in the class. My first B in college. This would have normally been devastating for me, but I remember brushing this aside because of how excited I was to continue learning about the field and enroll in similar classes.
This was also the class that Taylor Williams (2021 PRSSA President, mentor, confidant, and one of the kindest people I happen to know) did a classroom visit to convince students to join PRSSA. I remember stuffing the little piece of paper that Taylor handed me that February into my bookbag and leaving class that day. I had no idea that two years later, I would somehow follow in her footsteps to become President as well.
Funnily enough, I got to tell Laura how influential her class has been for me just a little over a month ago at the annual Milestones in Mentoring Gala hosted by The Plank Center. It was an incredibly grounding and full-circle moment for me as I wrapped up my final quarter at DePaul. I am so appreciative to her for unknowingly being a mentor as I embarked on my journey as a PRAD student and young professional.
It’s Funny How The World Works
When the pandemic hit, I immediately returned home to Cleveland, packing up all my belongings from the second floor of Belden-Racine Hall into my family minivan, ironically known as the Reddy Mobile. I had tried my best to be involved on campus, but most of the clubs I was in had slowed down that spring quarter, and there was only so much checking-in that I could do with the new friends that I had made.
That summer after finishing freshman year, I went through DeHub and Instagram, looking for any clubs that I may want to join once classes started back up again. When PRSSA posted a graphic saying to send them a “DM for more information on how to join,” I mustered up the courage to send the Instagram account a message and got a response. This message was just the push I needed to attend the info session that was happening later that week.
Although I was camera off and muted the whole time, that call in September was enough to convince me to join the Slack and pay my dues to become a member. Shortly after, I even signed up for the mentorship program that they held that year.
That next Winter Quarter I was taking two PRAD classes, “PRAD Entrepreneurs” taught by Professor Matt Ragas, and “Research, Data & Insights,” taught by Professor Juliet Stantz. I could probably write a whole second post just about how helpful and impactful both of these classes were for me, but for now, I’ll focus on how they laid the foundation for many of my skills and friendships that I continue to build on today.
Professor Ragas’ class not only taught me the importance of networking and how talented DePaul’s PRAD alumni are but was also where I got to meet more members from that year’s PRSSA e-board. Through presentations, guest speakers, and a group project, I connected quickly with my peers and found myself excited to log into a Zoom call for three hours every Tuesday night.
In my research class, while conducting my first SWOT analysis and having my first run-in with Qualtrics, I also got to know Professor Stantz a little bit better through class and check-ins with my group. Those check-ins could have never prepared me for the amount of time I spend getting advice and chatting with Juliet nowadays.
This was the quarter that I first decided to apply for a PRSSA e-board position. I remember feeling so unsure if I was qualified since I didn’t have any previous PR experience and was usually pretty quiet during the chapter’s general meetings.
When it was time for my interview a few weeks later, I was a nervous wreck and unsure of what sort of questions they would ask me. To prep, I could only bring myself to make a list of my favorite PR campaigns, I clearly had no idea what I was doing.
You can imagine how surprised I was when I was later offered the position of VP of Social, where I would manage and create graphics for all of the chapter’s social channels. I had barely used Canva, and definitely needed to brush up on my Adobe skills, but I was so excited and encouraged when I got the email that April.
What stands out most as I reflect on my time as VP of Social was how important it was for me to navigate communication with a virtual team and find ways to connect with each other. I very quickly became friends with Gisselle Bahena, who was the VP of Communications at the time. From co-leading a few panels together to leading the chapter, I’m so grateful to have gone through this process with her from the beginning.
So, now what?
Fast forward almost 100 graphics and a few years later, and I couldn’t be more relieved that I applied for that position.
Although this may just seem like another love letter to a college club, I’d like to believe that PRSSA has been more than a club for me. Not only has it created lifelong mentors and friendships that I am going to hold close to my heart forever, but it has taught me the importance of taking risks and having confidence in myself in a way that I never had before.
Whether it be working with IBM to create buzz for a Hackathon or gathering volunteers for the annual Page Conference, DePaul PRSSA has been at the core of all the career-changing opportunities I have had the privilege of experiencing these past few years. If you’re even considering entering the communications field, I wouldn’t hesitate to take full advantage of everything that this organization can offer. You may feel nervous and insecure at first, but if you seek out the proper resources and really put yourself out there, I know that PRSSA will be there to support you along the way.
I’m so grateful to have been trusted enough to be the President of PRSSA this past year and could not be prouder of all that our chapter has accomplished, and is going to accomplish in the future.
I also have to shout out the DePaul PRAD community, who will always be the #1 PRAD Program in the country to me. When I graduated high school, I was convinced that I would never have teachers that would support me as my high school teachers had. Boy, was I wrong. The DePaul PRAD and CMN professors are always the first to congratulate us and have been the most supportive throughout these past few years. Whether it be for hours of conversation and advice, or a quick hello as I ran past their office on the 12th floor of Daley, they have shown me and PRSSA how welcoming and one-of-a-kind our program is.
There were so many times these past few months that professors or professionals would tell me that this was the “Best DePaul PRSSA chapter that they had seen in years.” I believe that if this is true, it must come down to how close-knit and connected all of us are. Konner Gross, our VP of Creative and my telepathic birthday twin, said it best in his post from last week, “Members of the chapter lean on each other in ways that are truly magical.”
I would not be half the person that I am without Juliet and the incredible e-board that has, to my surprise, never stopped cheering for me throughout all the ups and downs. I want to especially say how appreciative I am of all the e-board members that I have gotten a chance to learn from and laugh with over the past few years. Thank you all for letting me send you way too many spreadsheets and calendar invites these past few months, I can’t wait to enter this industry alongside all of you! 💙
Pavitra Reddy completed her BA in Public Relations and Advertising in Fall 2022. She served as the DePaul 2022 PRSSA President and was VP of Social from 2021-2022. She is now a conference lead for PR eLevated, and will be taking some time off to travel and spend time with family before entering the full-time world!