The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations awarded $7,500 in travel scholarships to help five students further their professional development in areas of public relations leadership, mentorship and diversity and inclusion.
The scholarship recipients were selected from a field of more than 35 candidates:
- Victoria Adebanjo, SUNY Plattsburgh
- Gabriela Balayla, University of Florida
- Saam Malik Hassan, City College of New York
- Brock Shine, University of Florida
- Andrés Warren, West Virginia University
“While the process of narrowing down applicants was extremely challenging, the selection committee came away from the process inspired by the thought leaders that our profession has coming forward,” said Dr. Karla Gower, director of The Plank Center.
Each scholarship provides students with the opportunity to attend two events sponsored by the Center:
- The inaugural Summit on Diversity & Inclusion in Public Relations where attendees will gain a deeper understanding of D&I in the profession and learn about the barriers to and best practices for growing, mentoring and retaining diverse populations within the field.
- The “Milestones in Mentoring” Gala honors leaders throughout the profession who, by word and deed, have demonstrated a superior commitment to mentoring others, and who are committed to accelerating the success of others in the field.
During their time in Chicago, the students will have an opportunity to gain professional insights and to see, hear from and network with more than 400 successful professionals, educators and students.
Meet the Summit Scholarship Recipients
Victoria Adebanjo is a Nigerian American from Brooklyn, NY. She is currently a senior studying at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, double majoring in public relations and psychology while also minoring in biology. Adebanjo serves as the President of SUNY Plattsburgh’s African Student Association, African Unity, and is also a Head Resident Assistant for Housing and Residential Life. Since her freshman year, Adebanjo has been very active on her college campus. She aspires to work in public relations within the healthcare field for a hospital or a health organization. Given the amazing opportunity to attend the Summit, she hopes to expand her knowledge on public relations and build strong connections and relationships with professionals in the dynamic field, while also contributing her own personal experiences to others.
Gabriela Balayla is a junior undergraduate student studying public relations at the University of Florida. Balayla was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, and comes from French, Moroccan, Lebanese, and Israeli heritage. She moved to the United States in 2010 from Venezuela and lived in Miami, Fla., until her high school graduation. Having a passion for communications and the field of public relations, she decided to move to Gainesville, Fla., in 2016 to pursue her career goals. After acquiring an Associate of Arts degree at Santa Fe College in 2017, she transferred to the UF College of Journalism and Communications. Some of Balayla’s interests include music, crisis communications, and event management. Balayla is a PRSSA member and works as a student assistant in the UF Public Relations Department. She expects to graduate in fall 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in public relations and a concentration in dance.
Saam Malik Hassan is a senior at The City College of New York where he is double majoring in Public Relations/Advertising and Political Science, and minoring in Community Change Studies. Hassan has recently completed his employment at the MAS Youth Center as Outreach Director, where he facilitated community service programs, public relations operations, and awareness campaigns. As Outreach Director, he has secured both national and local media placements and established key relationships with elected officials, religious institutions, and other non-profits. He is now a Brand Strategy Intern at Young and Rubicam Advertising where he contributes to the development of strategy for notable brands such as the Miss America Competition, Dell, and Office Depot. Hassan is also the director of NY MSA Showdown; a talent tournament catering to over 200 college students in New York City. He has organized over 50 communications, recreational, political, and service projects for both nonprofit and for-profit clients locally and nationally. Hassan is passionate about faith, community organizing, creativity and people.
If you’re scuba diving in Japan and your tank runs out of air, how do you say: “I need help?” A passionate adventurer of both environment and culture, University of Florida student Brock Shine is happy to tackle that question at any time. Shine entered the university to study public relations, where he quickly became involved in organizations such as PRSSA and UF’s Eco-representatives, where he hopes to increase environmental awareness. Shine comes from a small beach town community in West Florida, and as a result has been heavily involved in environmental conservation, including a trip to Greece’s Aegean Sea for marine conservation and local PR work. Hoping to spread his environmental ideas overseas, Shine is currently pursuing a minor in Japanese to become more globally involved in eastern business culture. He hopes to cap this off with a trip to Japan in the future.
Born in Cali, Colombia, Andrés Warren has had an urge to experience new cultures and travel since a young age. This urge has led him on numerous adventures with family and friends all over the world. Adopted and raised in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Warren been exploring waterfalls, lakes, State and National Parks since he could walk. Warren graduated from Haverling High School in 2016 and began his journey at West Virginia University where he is currently a junior studying Strategic Communications and Social Media. Last semester, he became the Digital Engagement Chair for PRSSA, helped organize an event for TEDx, and competed in the Bateman National Case Study, but none of these accomplishments seem as important to Warren as capturing a great moment with his camera. After graduation in 2020, Warren plans on finding a job pertaining to his major and living in a diverse city.