2015 Senior Tribute

Name: Emma DeCaroIMG_552222

Major: Public Relations

Hometown: Austin, Texas – Lake Travis

Fun fact: My entire family is left handed!

Plans after graduation: Intern with The Richards Group in Dallas

Advice to PRSSA underclassmen: My dad always encouraged me to “invite myself to the party.” This means go ahead and arrange informational interviews. Send emails to companies of interest asking if you can volunteer intern for them. Be willing to do things you might not be interested in at first, and even for free, because those experiences will open up even better opportunities in the future. Who knows, you just might be surprised at what you enjoy!


Name: Hayley FickHayley Fick

Major: Public Relations

Hometown: Montgomery, Texas

Fun Fact: I’ve never been to a UT football game. Oops.

Plans after graduation: Working as a public affairs specialist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Advice to underclassmen: Get an internship ASAP. It’s the only way you will find out what you like and don’t like about the industry, which will help you make decisions about what to focus your career on.


Name: Michelle Hill (former VP of public relations)IMG_7426

Major: Public Relations

Hometown: Weslaco, Texas

Fun fact: I have perfect attendance from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Plans after graduation: I will be working full-time at Cloud[8]Sixteen, Inc. in Austin and I will be traveling a lot this summer.

Advice to PRSSA underclassmen: Get involved, ask for help when you need it, and have fun! Doing your best in school is important, but you’re probably not going to remember your grades. What you will remember though is the wonderful times you had with the people you love. Hook ‘Em forever and ever!


Name: Paola McKeeimage1 (1)

Major: Public Relations

Hometown: The Woodlands, Texas/ Mexico

Fun fact: I had a pet pig in college.

Plans after graduation: working at The Honest Company (Austin office)

Advice to PRSSA underclassmen: People are very willing to help undergraduates whether it’s with internships or advice, so take advantage of that and use your resources as a student. Also, work hard and keep in touch with the people you meet along your professional career.


Name: Vi Tran (former president)vt19

Major: Public Relations

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Fun fact: My family and I immigrated to the United States when I was 4. Three short days after graduation, I’m heading back to Vietnam to visit family and learn more about my roots – it’s been 19 years!

Plans after graduation: I’m moving to San Francisco, CA in July to start a full-time job with Accenture as a management consulting analyst.

Advice to PRSSA underclassmen: You’re not going to remember your test scores on a difficult exam several years down the line. You are, however, going to remember the relationships you built with the people you met. Whether social, academic, romantic, or professional – relationships are the most important aspect about a college experience.

Congratulations seniors! From all of us in Texas PRSSA, good luck and Hook ‘Em, Horns!


Matthew Curtis: Advice from Real World PR Experience

By: Courtney Coonrod


For our last meeting of the semester, Matthew Curtis spoke to us about his experiences in the world of public relations and offered advice for our future careers. Matthew is currently the director of government relations for HomeAway, homes that can be rented when on vacation, moving to another house, or for whatever other reason that a temporary house is needed. Mostly elaborating on his past careers, Matthew expressed what it takes to be qualified for the PR world.

As the communication director for two mayors in Austin, Matthew had to do whatever he could to make the mayors look good in order to get clear messages out to citizens. While Mayor Leffingwell was in office, the economy was faced with a crisis: Hurricane Katrina. The relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina called for a lot of PR attention as 10,000 guests had to reside in the convention center. For instance, every convention going to the convention center had to be cancelled, public safety people needed help, and the convention center needed to be turned into a place for housing people. While there were also multiple people housed and recognized as honored guests in the heart of Austin, recruiting them for job openings became an ordeal. Because of his strong effort in creating stability for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and roles he played for the governors, Matthew received the “Austinite of the Year” award in 2011.

The PR firm Tate Austin, now recognized as Hahn Public Communications, was looking for people to help grow their business at the same time Matthew was looking to work for them. Tate Austin made it clear that they did not need talking points or press releases; they needed someone who could contribute to their firm as well as expand it. Matthew uses his experience with Tate Austin to show us that working with a PR firm is either about securing business spaces or growing them. “Having someone who can write and be innovative is good, but it is essential to have ideas of how to make a company grow and bring in more income.” Curtis said.

Matthew goes on to inform us that the role of the PR professional has expanded and it is constantly changing. The PR skills that we are learning can benefit us for other careers, such as business development, investor relations and so on. Relationship building is key because it can be beneficial when trying to meet someone or looking for a certain job. Matthew calls it relationship building rather than networking because it is all about long-term relationships, not just trying to achieve something for the short-term. “There is nothing bigger than making a campaign because that is where you make the majority of your connections.” Curtis said.

A Lesson to All PR Specialists and Journalists

By: Jenna Meltzer


All public relations specialists know that the first step to writing a feature story for publication is to get multiple primary and secondary sources. The reliance on one person for the basis of a national story is risky and holds a multitude of consequences–Rolling Stone Magazine made this mistake.

On November 19, 2014, Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” which told the story of a student named Jackie who was gang-raped in the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia. On December 1, Rolling Stone admitted that they did not speak to any men from the fraternity, and the following day, made the claim that Jackie was a credible source. The magazine said the validity of her story should not be questioned. Three days later, Rolling Stone came out with a statement stating that they misjudged the situation and Jackie’s story may not be entirely true. After a thorough investigation earlier this year, it was confirmed that this story was entirely false.

Sexual assault stories are very difficult to report. It is a personal matter that is hard to disprove, especially when people are retelling traumatizing events that happened to them in the past. However, as PR specialists, it is our job to find physical evidence to back up the story being told. Rolling Stone failed to investigate properly, and instead, relied entirely on Jackie’s words.

Rolling Stone’s mistake offers a lesson for all journalists and PR specialists: always use more than one source for any article or news release. This major publication is currently reaping the consequences that could have been easily avoided if they followed simple journalistic standards. No matter how credible a source seems, never solely rely on it.

Meet Your 2015-2016 Texas PRSSA Executive Board!

Taylor Griffin10497230_10152236835592794_3197867864317726476_o

Position: President

Areas of Study: PR major / Government minor / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Fun Fact: “I have dual citizenship in Ireland!”


Cody Church10411112_785800394805413_5249220549579469348_n

Position: VP of Public Relations

Areas of Study: PR major / Public Policy, Environment and Sustainability Certificate / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Lexington, Texas

Fun Fact: “I am a certified Subway sandwich artist.”


Ashley Jonesprssa election pic

Position: VP of Event Planning

Areas of Study: PR major / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Fun Fact: “I did the 26-mile hike to Machu Picchu a couple summers ago!”


Cindy Lien10258573_1483863781828504_1175766773535554257_n

Position: VP of Professional Development

Areas of Study: PR major / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Fun Fact: “One of my favorite drinks in the world is orange Hi-C. Ice cold Hi-C equals happy Cindy.”


Sydney Schoolfield10891940_10205461309192917_1591226157877922322_n

Position: VP of Philanthropy

Areas of Study: PR major

Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas

Fun Fact: “I’ve broken my arm three times — fell off a log, a scooter and a slide.”


Nancy Lien11030979_1605883722959842_580269496_o

Position: VP of Operations

Areas of Study: PR major / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Garland, Texas

Fun Fact: “I’m tiny, but I’ll never turn down food.”


Autumn TaylorAutumn_Taylor2

Position: Creative Director

Areas of Study: PR major / TexasMedia

Hometown: Breckenridge, Texas

Fun Fact: “I’m a big nerd. Like, I play video games. And make them. My dream is to build an awesome desktop.”


Sarah Elise Vasquezrsz_facebook-20140705-042517

Position: Secretary

Areas of Study: PR major

Hometown: Uvalde, Texas

Fun Fact: “I’m a Valentine’s Day baby!!! And I love mango juice!”


Selena Albanese464834_3586729835052_916790492_o

Position: Treasure

Areas of Study: PR major / Business Foundations Certificate

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Fun Fact: “I was an extra in How I Met Your Mother.”

AP Style – With You For the Long Haul

By: Sydney Schoolfield


Recognize that picture? If not, you must not have had the pleasure of taking Dr. Junker’s writing courses yet. Those who have taken the quizzes in Junker’s class know that the AP Stylebook is a standardized way of referencing people, places, dates, things and so much more. The book is commonly used as a writing and editing reference in newsrooms and corporate offices worldwide.

So why am I writing a blog post on a 500-page book with more terms than you can count? Well, if you think this book will be buried in your bookshelf gathering dust after college, you’re wrong. After speaking with several public relations professionals, I learned that they always have their books handy and some even refer to the book as the “journalist and public relations bible.”

On the bright side, once you get the hang of it, you won’t have to flip through all of the pages for every word you write.

Here are a few basic AP style tip rules that are commonly forgotten. We’ll call it AP Style 101:


On first reference, list the person’s full name (i.e. Dr. Tom Smith). On second reference, only list the person’s last name (i.e. Smith); however, if the story involves family members with the same last name, use first and last name.


Although the exact time of day an event has occurred is not necessary in most stories, these guidelines apply. Use numeric figures except for 12 p.m. and 12 a.m. In these cases, use noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes. Examples: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 9-11 a.m.


When referencing months, always capitalize the name. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec., but spell out the others. Spell out the month when using alone or with a year alone.


Spell out street names when they are used alone or with more than one street name (i.e. Pennsylvania Avenue). Use the abbreviated versions of Ave., Blvd., and St. only with numbered addresses (i.e. 1400 Pearl St.)


Generally, writers should capitalize formal titles used directly before an individual’s name (i.e. Sen. Jane Smith). However, when the title is used without a name, lowercase and spell it out (i.e. The senator was here).


In general, spell out the numbers one through nine. Use figures for 10 and above.

State Names

When used in the body of a story, state names should always be spelled out. In datelines, most states are abbreviated. However, they are not abbreviated in the same form as postal codes (see your AP style book). In addition, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah are never abbreviated.

Composition Titles

For titles of movies, books, operas, poems and more, capitalize all the principle words as well as the first and last words. Put quotation marks around all of these titles excluding the Bible, almanacs, dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Hope you enjoyed AP Style 101. Go ahead and personalize your AP Stylebook with tabs and stickers, because it’s not going anywhere!

Plan Your Summer Road Trip Using PR Skills

By: Kayla Paschall

Shutter Stock

Summer is approaching as the semester is ending. For some, the end of the semester means summer internships, and for others it means starting a career after graduation. Before the real world comes into play, maybe you could use some of those PR skills to take a spontaneous road trip. Remember the days of mapping out destination spots with your friends? Well now is the time to dive head first into the idea with this road trip guide.

  1. Money does not grow on trees

This was always the issue with my friends and I, because it can be difficult to gather enough money, especially within two months. The secret is “the more the merrier.” In other words – more people means less money each person needs to bring. The advice I can give you is to lay out a savings plan. For example, set up some babysitting gigs or take those offers on campus to participate in a survey for cash. Or possibly sell some old stuff you do not use anymore on Craigslist. I would not be concerned with making more than $300, but it would not hurt to try and save more. A good strategy could be along the lines of saving $50 a week for 6 weeks. It may also be a good idea to use a money pool with a certain amount of cash thrown in by each person to use on the trip so no one pays more than the other.

  1. Wait, where are we going to stay?

Become used to the concept of camping and sleeping in a car. This is where your sense of adventure is supposed to come in (cue spirit fingers). Hitching a tent at a campground can cost around $10 to $20. However, a cheap hotel can be found for around $40 a night. Before you leave, I propose labeling some camping spots or hotels on the route. It is likely you are not going to arrive when you expect to, so other options need to be available. Imagine finding an awesome campground with an ocean view and bonfires at night. Was your expectation for sleeping arrangements fine with being lowered after that perception?

  1. So many destinations with so little time

Let each person pick a town or attraction they want to visit. This will eliminate any arguments over where to go. Just make sure to map out the route before driving off so you do not blindly try to find the exit or next turn. It is important everyone is on the same page about the destination spots and all the costs that come along with it. The exciting part about the voyage is having a vague idea where you will end up. Take your time on the expedition to stop and sightsee.

  1. We may have to eat every once in a while

Food can easily account for most of your budget if you do not plan accordingly. I suggest packing a cooler with groceries of pre-cooked food. Look at this way-the more money spent on food, the less money spent on entertainment. It is okay to stop at places to eat, but only pick out affordable locations.

  1. What about gas?

Gas is definitely pricey, especially with a gas-guzzling vehicle. The solution is to pack light and drive the speed limit. Because it will be summer, all you really need is a swimsuit or two, shorts and tank tops. And according to the Independent Traveler, driving the speed limit saves gas. It also recommends looking for places with a variety of gas stations, because gas will be cheaper with all of the competition. To calculate how much gas will cost you, you can use this example with a total of five people in the group:

Austin to Miami, Florida 2,700 miles (to and back)
Tahoe 26 mph on highway
Gallons Tahoe takes 21 gallons
How many miles per tank of gas? 26 mph X 21 gallons=544 miles/tank of gas
How many times to fill up? 2,700 miles/544 miles=5 times
How much does gas cost per gallon? Anywhere from $2-$3.50
Total gas cost? ($2 or $3.50 X 21 gallons) X 5 trips=$210 to $367
How much will each person pay? Between $42 and $73 per person

A road trip can be a great way to use your PR skills for this real life scenario. This is especially true for event planners, because they must be flexible, creative and organized – all the skills needed for a road trip. It is important to accept that the trip will not always go according to plan. Just like in a work situation, something may come up and it is your job to have a back-up strategy. And like a PR practitioner, it is also your job to communicate and make relationships with your audience. So come up with a proposition and pitch it to your friends to persuade them to jump aboard this spontaneous road trip scheme.


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