Michael Marafino | Staff Writer
Displaying her strength as a student, Rachel Willis, who is studying both public and international relations, recently won two national scholarships for her achievements in academics, leadership and experience in public relations.
The first scholarship is the Betsy Plank/Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Scholarship, consisting of $5,000 and a certificate, and the second award is the John D. Graham Scholarship.
According to Willis, the process began in May 2017. She assembled letters of recommendation from professors, mentors and former managers who advocated her commitment to public relations. She also wrote an essay consisting of how she would uphold the standards of PRSSA and professional public relations.
Along with her current scholarship, Willis is a finalist for the PR News People of the Year Awards in the 2017 Student of the Year category, the winner of which will be announced on December 6, 2017.
“It’s a great reflection on the media department” said Michael Dillon, the chair of the media department. “It’s a tremendous reflection on her teachers. Mainly, it’s a tremendous reflection on her. I think Rachel embodies the best of what we hope for and expect from our students.”
Willis displayed her gratitude for Duquesne University’s help in her success.
“I really appreciate the support Duquesne has afforded me over the years” she said. “The university truly cultivates an entrepreneurial spirit and offers students the resources to stand out and pursue their passions, if they’re willing to dedicate the time.”
Dillon stated how the faculty in the department can be a driving force in one’s success.
“Our job, as I see it, is to provide students with the resources and a map to get where they want and to help them along the way, but they have to take the journey,” he said. “Just having the resources and the map, that’s not taking the journey.”
Dillon explained that Willis carried herself well as a student.
“I think Rachel really embraced that. She took the resources that we made available to her, she followed the map, she asked for guidance, and she had a very professional attitude as a student,” Dillon said. “I think her teachers almost immediately treated her more like a young peer than just a student.”
Not only is Willis a strong representative of the Media Department, but she is also the RHA president and social media and outreach coordinator for Duquesne Strong Women, Strong Girls.
“In the near future, I hope to work for a marketing communications agency in a mid-size to large city, perhaps Pittsburgh or D.C., and hope to build upon my skills as a strategic communicator, strong writer and creative thinker and problem solver,” Willis said. “In the later future, I’d like to work in-house for a technology or social enterprise company working on the company’s global communications and sustainability/CSR efforts.”
Willis’ shared her inspirational words of advice for those seeking to follow in her footsteps.
“Embrace your entrepreneurial spirit and pursue your passions,” she said. “If an opportunity doesn’t exist, whether on campus, in class or elsewhere, go and create it yourself.”