Coming into college, I had no idea what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. I was simply this kid from Sioux Falls, South Dakota who was leaving the only place and people he had ever known for a place called Minnesota State University . I spun the imaginary wheel of possibilities about every week, trying to ignite that fire inside of me for something, anything. My freshman year had come and gone and I was still undeclared. Then I found PRSSA. I would be lying if I said I had any idea what public relations was three years ago but a friend of mine pointed out a flier on campus promoting PRSSA’s kick-off event and I decided to go. OK yes, I did only go for the free pizza but I walked out of that meeting with a new passion, new career goals and ultimately, one of the best decisions I had ever made.
PRSSA has brought forward opportunities that I would have never thought possible. It has allowed me to step into real-agency settings, travel far and wide and enhance my professional portfolio with nationally-published content. Out of all the things PRSSA has brought me, the thing it has given me that I hold most near and dear and that will carry me well beyond college are the friendships.
One friendship in particular stands out — and that is Bryar Keyes of Missouri State University. Bryar serves as the 2017-2018 Vice President of Events and Fundraising for PRSSA National. If Bryar is at Missouri State and I am now Augustana University in South Dakota, after a transfer last year, how on earth did we meet? Simply through writing for PRSSA National’s publications.
Writing for PRSSA’s publications not only allows for insurmountable growth and opportunities to learn, but it has also taught me that I find myself becoming a better writer through reading the work of others. As writer’s, we all have our style – our niche. We write a certain way, use certain phrases and talk about subjects we feel most passionate about. Reading pieces that differ from your style or that discuss diverse topics allows you to challenge yourself – to broaden your capabilities and ultimately become more open-minded as a writer.
I began writing for Progressions this last June in attempts to enhance my writing and to ultimately see my name featured on a nationally-published piece but what I was not expecting at all, was to make new friends because of the pieces I was writing. Each time a piece goes live on Progressions, our wonderful National Editor-in-Chief, Natalie Gloady, sends a tweet. From there people from different universities across the country can access, share and comment on the piece. One pattern usually followed after a piece of mine went live and that was seeing Bryar’s name in my mentions, praising me for what he felt was an exemplary piece. This became a two-way street.
Each time one of us produced a piece for Progressions or FORUM, we took a great interest in the pieces and would often find ourselves sharing, liking and complimenting each other on our work. The friendship only increased with each new publication and was crowned when we were fortunate enough to meet face-to-face at PRSSA National Conference in Boston. Since then, Bryar has served as a mentor, professional connection and, most importantly, a friend. Through writing for PRSSA, I not only amplified my passion for writing and public relations, strengthened my skills and professional portfolio and gained national recognition but I also formed a friendship worth a thousand words.
Friendship and mentorship are not inherently independent. It takes two. Friends challenge each other, friends believe in each other and friends make each other better. Bryar has succeeded in every one of these facets not only as a friend but as a mentor too. You’ve heard my side of the story and my gratitude for what PRSSA has brought but as mentioned, friendship takes two. With that being said, I surrender the remainder of this piece to the friend I’ve spoke so highly of to share what PRSSA means to him and the friendships that have come with it.
————————————————————————————————————————————————————————When I started school, it was five hours away, in a different corner of the state, at a different school, with a different major. I began to understand how little drive I had when I thought about having a job in psychology (my first major) and how I felt so unfulfilled, living in a small town, with little to do besides hang out at Wal-Mart.
To me, public relations only existed in the largest cities, something a small-town boy would never do.
I decided to transfer to my current school, Missouri State University and the field of PR opened up to me. Then, at the urging of my adviser, I joined PRSSA. Our Chapter was small at the time, and I was chomping at the bit to become more involved and grow the group. I ran to be the PR chair of the organization and got it.
This started the networking (possibly my favorite aspect of PR — knowing everyone) and I fell in love with the Society and the people in it.
Through the publications crafted by PRSSA, I found many friends, who have become thoughtful leaders in the particular subject matter that they find most interesting.
In sports (a field it would be difficult for me to care less about), I began seeing Riley’s work and even though it was about a subject that meant nothing to me, I was still enthralled by his writing. He has the ability to make a completely dead piece of literature come alive and making me interested in something I didn’t care about before.
In lieu of this ability, I began waiting for more and more writing from him and giving him acclaim for the pieces I liked through Twitter.
This started a friendship that I am very glad to have.
It is an interesting feeling to go from a position where you seek mentorship from others, to being one able to offer mentoring to a younger individual. In my position on the National Committee, I realize that I am able to encourage members throughout the Society. Many times, it is simply the push that gets them to accomplish great things.
With the friendship of Riley, I have noticed that while I feel like to mentor, it seems to be a two way street. When I am beyond the point of stressed or burnt out, his drive and ambition gives me a renewed fire in my gut, so to speak.
I am beyond thankful for the opportunities that PRSSA has given to me, the doors it has opened but more importantly, the friends I have made. I have gained mentors out of the advisers and Champions for PRSSA, grown my skills through serving on the National Committee and made lifelong friends throughout the society, like Riley.
Now, think about your own experiences as a PRSSA member and the relationships formed within. Take time to reflect on the many opportunities, blessings and friendships that have come with being a part of such an amazing Society.
Riley Nordquist is a senior, majoring in communication studies at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. Riley serves as a member of PRSSA National’s Industry News and Current Events subcommittee.
Bryar Keyes is a senior public relations student at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. He is currently serving as the PRSSA National Vice President of Events and Fundraising for PRSSA’s 50th anniversary year 2017-2018. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.