Posted At: February 28, 2013 7:00 P.M.
by Taylor Hodgkinson
Rena Pederson’s accolades include the likes of appearing on Oprah for her ‘What’s Next?’ book, serving as vice president and editor of the editorial page of The Dallas Morning News for 16 years, being a member of Pulitzer Prize Board for nine years, serving as senior advisor for strategic communications for the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., being named ‘one of the most powerful women in Texas’ by Texas Monthly and serving as communications director for the National Math and Science Initiative.
Yet it’s her humility, compassion and generosity toward serving others that many find inspirational.
“Rena’s extremely down to earth and passionate about her field expertise. She was always excited to give me experience and move me farther in my professional path,” said Evan Bogard, a current student majoring in communications and minoring in public relations at Texas State University. This past year, Bogard had the opportunity to intern with Pederson at the National Math and Science Initiative.
Pederson retired this past month, but she had been with NMSI since it was founded in 2007. NMSI is a nonprofit organization working to provide underserved youth with the necessary math and science skills to help them develop into young professionals. By promoting education, NMSI strives to raise awareness nationwide about the need to prepare America’s youth for their future professional endeavors.
“Getting to work for NMSI, I had a terrific opportunity to use my journalism experience to serve the public. It was a perfect fit – I had learned as a newspaper editor that the biggest problem in oursociety is education,” Pederson said.
“The involvement in youth’s education is imperative in developing a proactive lifestyle,” Bogard said.
At an early age, Pederson found her love for writing as a high school student and knew she wanted to pursue a career where she could share real-life stories and disseminate messages to large audiences.
“I love to write, but it’s a craft you have to keep working on. The best advice I received was ‘read good writers,’ whether it be newspapers, magazines, books, journals or short stories. It’s important to read and learn your craft. Learn how to use words,” Pederson said.
“My advice to those seeking a career in communications with a nonprofit is ‘hone your writing skills.’ Nonprofits need to sell their message to gain support. It’s a virtuous cycle of getting the word out and connecting with people so you can generate more support and help more people in need.” Pederson added. “Get your message and get it out, so you can do good.”
Get your message.
“I have been fortunate to be able to write, but also able to do good for others,” Pederson said. “While working with the newspaper and being editor of the editorial page, it was enormously challenging having constant deadlines and having to find the right and helpful thing to say to others.”
“You feel so a part of the fabric of the community and it’s very gratifying,” Pederson noted. “As challenging as it was, I’m very grateful to have been a part of the newspaper.”
Being offered the opportunity by Pederson to write an article for the Salute to Freedom Publication’s biannual magazine, which promoted the NMSI’s Initiative for Military Families program, Bogard was able to experience firsthand the power of disseminating information to the public.
“The most difficult part in my research was finding a method of language to reach to the readers and finding a variety of information, as well as showing there is a need for better STEM [science, technology, engineering and science] education,” Bogard said. “NMSI wants people to be passionate and be involved in [the nonprofit organization’s] efforts toward youth’s education.”
Get your message out.
“Rena’s kindness and open-mindedness, let alone impeccable taste in films, made me comfortable and confident in contributing to new ideas on PR strategies,” Bogard said.
After Bogard’s first day, she stopped by Pederson’s office and expressed her interest in pursuing a PR career in nonprofit organizations. Pederson immediately suggested they go to lunch and further discuss Bogard’s career path.
“[Rena] allowed me to sit in NMSI’s two-day meeting with APCO Worldwide PR firm and let me offer my input on how social media could be improved and how to get more followings,” Bogard said.
Pederson believes social media is essential channel for future PR practitioners.
“I think social media is a must, so pursuing a career in nonprofit and in PR you need good skills with social media to get your message to reach the public effectively,” Pederson said.
Pederson’s passion for advocating youth education and ensuring each child is provided a strong foundation has inspired a nationwide initiative. And it’s her caring attitude toward everyone she meets that inspires individuals to follow her in serving others.
“I’ll never forget [Rena’s] sincere and genuine interest in my career aspirations and taking the time to get lunch and listen to an intern,” Bogard said.
Bogard said that some of Pederson’s most valuable advice to her was to “be creative in your writing and keep professional and personable relationships with everyone you work with.”
“After my experience, with Rena’s guidance, I understand it’s not all about press releases — there are many other opportunities in the PR career choice, but now I know I want to work for a nonprofit organization. I want to work in an environment like NMSI where people are passionate about what they dedicating their lives to,” Bogard said.
“If you can marry your passion to your work — well, that’s winning the ballgame,” Pederson said.