Melissa in Cortona, Italy, a small town in the Tuscan region
Melissa with some PRSSA friends
Melissa and her mom along the Arno in Florence
Melissa and her boyfriend, Matthew, with Tom Skilling during a WGN event this summer
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am from Wheaton, Ill., and I’m a senior public relations major with a minor in civic engagement and responsibility. In addition to serving as secretary of Illinois State’s PRSSA Chapter, I am the public affairs and media relations intern at COUNTRY Financial. I’m the oldest of three siblings as well as the oldest of 10 cousins on my dad’s side. I have a younger sister, Jessica, who is a junior in high school and a younger brother, Andrew, who is in the seventh grade. I love eating and traveling! Those are my two passions in life, and they perfectly go hand in hand.
What was it that made you choose public relations?
Originally, I was an elementary education major, and I chose Illinois State University because of its strong education program. The August before my freshman year, I realized I loved working with children, but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and learn about something completely new to me. I discovered public relations and instantly felt connected. I chose to study public relations because I love the creativity behind campaign planning. I’ve always loved writing as well, which is the foundation of this field.
Who is the one person in your life that you look up to the most?
My mom is one of my best friends and the strongest, most inspirational person I know. She has always encouraged me to do my best and to give 110 percent in everything I do. She supports all my ambitions and is there to talk to about anything at the end of the day.
Have you ever traveled outside of the United States?
This past spring I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. Choosing to study abroad was one of the most irreplaceable experiences of my life. Florence is a city rich with beauty and history, and I am so thankful that I was able to spend four months there. During my time abroad, I traveled throughout the different regions of Italy, experiencing the different cultures from region to region. For spring break, my family visited and we traveled to Rome, Cinque Terre, and Venice. I spent my 21st birthday in Greece with my awesome roommate, Taylor. I also visited the gorgeous cities of Paris and Versailles in France as well as Salzburg, Austria, and celebrated Spring Fest in Germany.
What’s an interesting fact about yourself?
I was bitten by a shark in the fourth grade! Just kidding. I had my birthmark removed from my right arm, which left a scar, and it happens to look like a shark bite. I used to be embarrassed and self-conscious about my scar, so when I was younger I would make up funny stories and trick people into believing them. When I was a camp counselor, I used to tell kids that I was mauled by a bear.
Are you a night owl or an early bird?
I am a night owl for sure. My prime time to be productive is from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. I still love my sleep and take naps frequently throughout the week.
Do you have a personal motto?
One of my favorite quotes is by Jack Kerouac: “Live, travel, adventure, bless and don’t be sorry.” These words inspire me, feed my passions, and keep me motivated to dream big.
Where do you see yourself after graduation?
Ideally, I would love to secure a position at either a large or boutique public relations agency in Chicago. Once settled into my job, I would like to move to Chicago and experience “city life.” Outside of my career, I want to become involved in my community and volunteer where I can.
Did you have any internships this past summer?
This past summer, after returning from Italy, I held two internships. One was in Chicago at WGN-TV, where I was a marketing and promotions intern in the Creative Services Department. I loved working at WGN. Every day was different, and I never knew what to expect. Plus, the perks were great. I was also the marketing intern at The Morton Arboretum, a nature-based nonprofit museum in Lisle. It was my second summer working in the marketing department at the Arboretum, both summers filled with different and exciting experiences.
If you could give younger public relations students a word of advice, what would it be?
It’s never too early to start networking. Meeting and chatting with public relations professionals can teach you so much. They can be instrumental in your career path. You never know who you could meet and what opportunities can come of it!