Published on March 31, 2021, at 5:15 p.m.
by Bella Valentini.
The Fashion Institute of Technology has consistently been named one of the top five fashion schools in the country. While heralded as a fashion school, the Fashion Institute of Technology also offers various opportunities for business students to get involved through organizations like PRSSA — which has been a pre-professional organization at the school for 30 years. PRSSA has helped to inspire alumnae Sara Cherson, Gabrielle Orefici, Kelly McLoughlin and Lauren Donadio to pursue careers in the public relations industry, and provided many opportunities to help them become successful PR practitioners before graduating.
Cherson, a Media and Talent Relations assistant at Sony Pictures Television, graduated in 2018 — completing various internships in the entertainment industry throughout her college career. She explained that PRSSA helped shape her future by offering “relevant speakers, interactions with chapters all over the country, conferences, events and the opportunity to connect with [PR] professionals.”
Cherson was inspired to work in the entertainment industry through friends in PRSSA and speakers at various PRSSA conferences, but it was her time at BUILD Series and Paramount that solidified her passion for entertainment industry.
During her time with PRSSA, Cherson served as the chapter’s vice president of social media and PR and as vice president. While she noted that serving as the chapter’s vice president of social media and PR was the more fun of the two positions, both taught her invaluable skills that she uses today.
“In the real world there are so many people to please, as well as yourself, and to find that balance is difficult — PRSSA helped me hone in on that perfect mixture. I had the fun aspect … and the leadership aspect. I love my current job and find it very fun, but I also must be a leader — even as an assistant — among my colleagues,” explained Cherson.
Going to a school in the heart of Manhattan typically means more opportunities when it comes to internships, especially in the entertainment industry. Cherson is grateful to have had the opportunities she did, but emphasized that if students do all they can in relation to their desired position while in school, it doesn’t matter whether or not they went to school in a big city.
Orefici is currently a presidential associate at The Estée Lauder Companies, and she had various internships in the beauty and fashion PR industry before her graduation in 2020. She pointed out that “PRSSA has taught me networking and leadership skills that have become invaluable in my career. The guest speakers and networking opportunities inspired me to intern every semester, and I learned so much from each of them that helps me every day in my career.”
During her time with PRSSA, Orefici heard from various guest speakers, but Annie Jackson of Small Girls PR and Elizabeth Coke of The Estée Lauder Companies helped her passion for the beauty industry grow.
Like Cherson, Orefici served as the chapter’s vice president of social media and PR, as well as vice president. Though different roles, she worked closely with the chapter’s vice president of chapter development to ensure meeting times were posted to social media channels as vice president of social media and PR; and to curate meeting content, schedule guest speakers, announce meetings and manage the executive board as vice president.
Because of its location in Manhattan, the Fashion Institute of Technology drew Orefici in. Being a member of PRSSA helped pave her way for more internship opportunities, developing her into a more attractive candidate right out of undergrad.
McLoughlin graduated in 2018 with Cherson and is currently a specialist at Publicis Media. During her time at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she also interned at various agencies before graduating. PRSSA was crucial in strengthening McLoughlin’s time management skills, as well as developing networking skills she still uses to this day.
Through an agency visit at Derris during her time with PRSSA, McLoughlin was inspired to work in consumer goods and was motivated by Jesse Derris, the agency’s founder, to pursue a career in consumer goods. “[Derris’] founder really inspired me and showed that the [consumer goods] sector was state-of-the-art and evolving,” explained McLoughlin. This motivation eventually landed her an internship, and soon a full-time position after her graduation.
As a senior, McLoughlin served as the chapter’s president and described it as “an intimidating, yet very rewarding experience, that required a lot of side hours to organize and plan, but was always worth it to properly lead members.” Since traditional PR classes are not offered at the Fashion Institute of Technology, PRSSA helped her learn how the PR industry works.
To McLoughlin, PRSSA was her “true gateway into the professional world, especially given the focus on internships and networking right in our backyard.”
Donadio currently works as an account executive at Hunter, and had internship experience in fashion, event and beauty PR before her graduation in 2019. “PRSSA was so much more than just an extracurricular activity or on-campus organization to me; it served as an empowering community, support system and lifelong network where I was able to learn, grow and make meaningful connections on both a personal and professional level,” expressed Donadio.
Donadio now works on consumer brands in the home and lifestyle space at Hunter, an integrated marketing communications firm that she quickly fell in love with during her years at the Fashion Institute of Technology. As a PRSSA student, she took every opportunity to attend agency tours and events hosted by Hunter, where she heard from speakers across the agency in different practice areas within PR. “From these early interactions, I knew this was the type of creative environment where I wanted to plant my feet and grow my career,” noted Donadio.
Similar to McLoughlin, Donadio served as the chapter’s president during her senior year, strengthening skills such as coordination of events, logistics and team management that were transferable and necessary to her career.
As for going to school in Manhattan? Donadio said that “guest speakers and networking events in New York City were so much more easily accessible, and I was really fortunate to have that exposure during my college experience.”
Tips for current PRSSA members
While Cherson, Orefici, McLoughlin and Donadio all offered their own tips and advice for current members of PRSSA around the country, they all stressed the importance of getting involved through networking with peers and guest speakers. Donadio explained that current members should “build meaningful connections, because you never know when the right person can help open the right door for you.”
While networking is crucial to success in the organization, Cherson offered one piece of advice that can make a difference when working and communicating with others: “Do everything with a smile and kindness.”