By Hannah Ross
As we transition to a new EBoard for the upcoming semester, the outgoing EBoard wanted to reflect on their final thoughts from the year. Here’s what Melanie had to say.
- How did you first join PRSSA?
I heard about PRSSA for the first time when I was a prospective student, and Kelsey Balimtas, who was the president at the time was the speaker when I was visiting AU, and one of the things she talked about was her experience with PRSSA. So I knew before I even got to AU that I wanted to join, like before I even got accepted.
Freshman year, I went to the general interest meeting, and I actually decided not to join because I wanted to save money at the time. But then sophomore year I joined right away.
- What made you want to run for PRSSA President?
I loved all the events I went to and I felt like PRSSA gave me so much in terms of internship and networking opportunities and helping me set my career path. I knew becoming president would also open up a lot of doors for me, and I really wanted to give back to the organization. It gave me so much, and so I wanted to turn it around and give back to the members.
- What were some of your responsibilities as president?
A lot… I moved to New York halfway through the year and some of my responsibilities changed. But my main responsibility was to create the best experience for members and do that by facilitating our EBoard and showing people on the EBoard the ropes, because pretty much everyone on it this year was new.
I was also responsible for maintaining a relationship with our PRSA national parent chapter in DC, the national PRSSA board, and other PRSSA chapters in the area. One of my goals this year was to build a relationship with other PRSSAs in the DMV area, which was a little tricky because some of the chapters in the area had just shut down. But I invited the UMD and Howard chapters to most of our events. I also tried to grow our membership and build our reputation on campus. We had over 120 members this year.
- What were some of the bigger challenges you faced? Was it challenging running the chapter from New York during the second semester?
It was definitely challenging as a time commitment. When you’re on the PRSSA EBoard, it’s really like a job. It’s not just an extracurricular activity. If you want to be devoted to it, you have to put a lot of time. Some weeks I put 20 hours into it, sometimes more.
It was kind of hard to balance PRSSA with classes, work, and my internship. It could also be hard to really advocate for us as club on campus. Working with AUCC and Student Activities and managing the politics of that could be difficult – it was kind of a whole new world to navigate and it could be tough to manage that while promoting what was best for the organization.
And we all know that any long distance relationship is difficult, so when I moved to New York it was really hard to feel engaged with everybody. Even though I was Skyping into EBoard meetings, it was still obvious that I wasn’t around, so it could be hard for me to be in tune with everything that was happening and make relevant suggestions.
But everyone on EBoard really took on an amazing role. Emma (Vice President) really shined and took on a leadership role. Channing (Diversity and Inclusion Director) ran three different events on her own. It really showed how strong of an EBoard we have. And some people came and visited me, which was pretty awesome.
- What was your favorite thing about being president and what was the most rewarding?
My favorite thing about being president was watching the individual members grow throughout the year. It was important to me to develop personal relationships with as many members as possible and specifically with the Eboard. It was so exciting for me to watch people network and score new internships and become more experienced in the PR field. I definitely noticed when people took advantage of the skills and lessons taught at our events, and it was so cool to see them in action. I hope PRSSA was able to help some of those people achieve success in their internships and classes. I know it did for me!
AU Living Legends was the most rewarding for me as president. That was an event that I started as events director and carried through the end as president. It truly was in development for a year, and it felt amazing to hear the audience excited and all the good reviews we got after the event! I felt incredibly accomplished after that event.
- How did you manage a team of eight people with different personalities and working styles?
Working with people with different personalities can be very difficult and you’ll run into that no matter where you are. At your job. At school, group projects, whatever. It’s especially hard when you’re in a position of authority. Whenever I had challenges with that, I found it most helpful to just be open and honest about I wanted from people, and try to compromise or common ground and figure out what everyone wants. That can turn a difficult situation into a rewarding one.
- What type of skills did you build from this position?
Everything, oh my gosh. I felt like PRSSA prepared me more for the real world than a lot of my classes did, but first and foremost it gave me leadership abilities. Never before had I really been in charge of anything like that. Having to run EBoard meetings definitely made me feel confident when I speak at meetings at work and gave me insight into how an organization works from a strategic perspective.
It gave me confidence, especially with public speaking. Before being elected to president, I was events director so I went from having to introduce events to having to speak at every single meeting, so that just taught me to be comfortable in front of crowds, especially at AU Living Legends where I had to wear a sparkly dress.
It also taught me a lot about PR work, because in my classes, we didn’t talk much about agency versus in-house, and we didn’t talk about different opportunities. PRSSA taught me about all that, and also gave me networking skills. And it gave me friends! Which isn’t exactly a skill, but it’s just as important to be a well-rounded individual.
- How did you balance this position with your other commitments; first your other commitments at AU, then your full-time job in New York?
It was difficult at times to manage my time, but I found it most helpful to develop a routine and set deadlines for myself. For example, Sundays from 12-3pm I blocked out in my schedule to work on PRSSA things. It really all came down to time management and effective scheduling.
I kept a similar mentality when I moved to NYC. I know I wouldn’t be able to work on PRSSA projects during the work day, so I made tried my best to plan ahead and be as proactive as I could during the weekend, so that I wasn’t holding things up during the week.
- What is your favorite PRSSA memory?
I loved being president, that was 100% a great experience. Outside of being president, I loved NYC@AU II because I was on the events committee at that time. That’s when it finally clicked for me and I started to understand the inner workings of PRSSA and how everything works, which was really exciting.
- What advice do you have for the next person taking on your position?
I would say to never lose your passion and excitement for PRSSA. Even though it can feel like a hard job, everything we do is incredible, and everything we do is to give the chapter a better future. So just have fun with it. Don’t forget that part of it.