Isabella Abbott | Features Editor
Members of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) at Duquesne University attended the 2024 Renaissance Awards at the Fairmont, leaving with the 2024 Chapter of the Year Award on Jan. 25.
Each year, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Pittsburgh chapter celebrates the top communicators and best public relations campaigns and tactics from the city’s professionals. At this year’s event, Duquesne’s attendees had the chance to interact with some of the “most influential public relations professionals and top companies in the Greater Pittsburgh region,” according to the PRSA Pittsburgh website.
The Chapter of the Year award honors a local PRSSA chapter at an accredited university within three hours of driving distance of Pittsburgh. And though Duquesne is in the city, this is their first time receiving the honor. The PRSA organization’s mission is to empower and educate a diverse community of professionals in the field who value the role of public relations in their lives, which is why networking with one another was a big component of Thursday’s ceremony.
President of the Duquesne chapter and public relations and advertising major Elena Lazaro knows the importance of networking.
“It helps you grow as a professional, and you can learn from them, and they can learn from you,” Lazaro said. “It’s also a way to market yourself to let others know who you are and what your personal brand is.”
Integrated marketing communications major and chapter secretary Giulia LaForgia had a similar stance on networking.
“It’s a way to get your name out there especially in a field like public relations where it kind of seems like everybody knows everybody in some way or another,” LaForgia said. “So I think that it’s important to have your name kind of in that mix when you go and get a job so people know you.”
According to the PRSA website, public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and
their public, something LaForgia and Lazaro learn in their classes.
“PR is everywhere, and every single company should have a PR team just to be able to communicate with the public,” LaForgia said. “Without that, there’s lots of things that can go wrong so I think it’s important to recognize people who are in public relations especially because they’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes, and I think it goes unrecognized a lot.”
The night started with drinks, networking and hors d’oeuvres, followed by the award ceremony and more networking with coffee and dessert. Former alumni were also in attendance, including award-winning sportscaster and author Josh Taylor, the emcee for the night.
Duquesne media adjunct professor and immediate past president of PRSA Pittsburgh and alumni Robin Rectenwald said it was exciting for Duquesne’s chapter to win.
“It was a perfect fit for this year because Josh Taylor, who is also a Duquesne alum emceed our award so it was kind of cool to have such a big network of Duquesne alumni in the room to celebrate,” Rectenwald said.
When the time arrived, Lazaro accepted the Chapter of the Year award and spoke on behalf of her group at Duquesne.
“It felt really special to be recognized, and they were all cheering me on afterward,” Lazaro said. “So it made me feel good about our chapter and the way I’m running it.”
Advisor of the Duquesne chapter of PRSSA, Dr. Zeynep Tanes-Ehle, said she is very proud of her students in the organization and that she has a “minimal role as advisor” due to the student’s ability to “take initiative and their willingness to take risks.”
“It’s a group that is open to learn and has been consistently like that for many many years,” Tanes-Ehle said. “I don’t think they were doing all the work they had been doing to get the award either, they were doing it because they were enjoying it, and it was recognized which is a phenomenal achievement.”
Tanes-Ehle also notices the love her students have for the field of public relations.
“I think the best success in the field comes from the love that you feel for your work,” Tanes-Ehle said. “And this is what this group is doing, so they love what they’re doing, and they do good work so they’re not only interested, but they’re capable.”
At the Duquesne chapter, students can participate in agency tours, visits from public relations professionals and hands-on skill-building activities. All students
are welcome to join. Their upcoming annual conference, titled “Steps to Success,” is for local aspiring communications field students to gain networking and practical advice experiences from professionals and occurs Feb. 9 – Feb. 10 and is co-hosted by Point Park University. Students can sign up through Duquesne’s CampusLink.