Every year, the San Francisco Public Relations Round Table receives many applications from talented and bright Bay Area public relations students. Despite a crushing pandemic and pivot to everything being virtual, public relations students have thrived in these new environments. We were thrilled to receive dozens of applications this year and learn about the myriad of ways these students have risen above the obstacles put in front of them. The Round Table’s Scholarship Committee — Brenda Kahn, Paul Rose, Gerard Corbett and yours truly, Kathleen Brennan — worked diligently to review applications to find the most deserving of the bunch. We are proud to introduce you to our five chosen winners, including the recipient of the PR Round Table 2021 Patricia L. Harden Scholarship, Lauren Fernandes.
Thank you to all the organization’s members and supporters for helping us raise $10,000 to award these students, who without a doubt, will make a lasting impact on our industry.
Lauren Fernandes – Sonoma State University – 2021 Patricia L. Harden Scholarship Winner
Lauren Fernandes is a senior at Sonoma State University majoring in Communications and Media Studies and minoring in Business Administration. In spring 2021, she was recognized as a distinguished graduate from the Communications Department in addition to being named to the dean’s list during all semesters of her Communications degree courses. During her studies, Lauren worked as general manager of the university’s student-run PR firm, Primitivo. While leading the firm, she worked with real-world clients, networked with guest speakers, and led five teams to support different clients ranging from non-profits to wineries and gyms. Additionally, as VP of event management for her sorority Alpha Delta Pi, she coordinated events and oversaw philanthropy efforts benefitting the Ronald McDonald House. As a self-supporting student, she is grateful for the opportunity provided by the SF PRRT scholarship and will use the funds to help pay off her student loan debt. The first in her family to graduate from college, Lauren will be interning at the PR consulting company Hotwire Global and hopes to eventually join full time.
Mikel Gregory – University of San Francisco
Mikel Gregory is a senior majoring in Communication Studies with minors in African American Studies and Biology (pre-med track) at the University of San Francisco. He has been active on campus throughout his academic career, serving as a University Ambassador, Get Oriented (GO) Team lead, and member of the Communication Honors Society Lambda Pi Eta and USF’s Public Relations Student Society of America. Mikel has a keen interest in the intersection between communications and medicine. He has worked as a communications intern with the UCSF HEAL Initiative, a global health equity fellowship that trains and transforms front-line health professionals through building a community dedicated to serving the underserved as their lifelong choice. He wants to use his public relations skills within the medical field to “reconcile relationships that have been broken between communities of color and medical personnel.” He aspires to become a medical doctor and lead medical professionals to better patient care skills for interacting with communities that have distrust in medical services. Post-graduation, Mikel plans to further his medical knowledge by pursuing dual degree MPH/MD programs.
Sophia Howard – University of San Francisco
Sophia Howard is a senior majoring in Communication Studies at the University of San Francisco (USF). She has been active on campus throughout her academic career, participating in the Women in Business Club and Lambda Pi Eta honor society. Her work as an intern for Af&Co, a local SF lifestyle PR and marketing agency, has fostered her passion for PR. In 2021, she was elected founding chapter president of the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter at USF. In this role, Sophia looks forward to helping create a community on campus of passionate, emerging PR professionals. She plans to continue pursuing leadership roles throughout her academic and professional career. In Summer 2021, she will begin a new internship for the MINA group. “The PR community in San Francisco has welcomed me with open arms and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of it for many years to come,” she says. The SFPRRT scholarship will help pay off her student loans, easing her transition into post-graduation life.
Elena Linardi – Santa Clara University
Elena Linardi is a senior majoring in communications and minoring in entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University (SCU). Born in Brazil, raised in Texas and with a current home base in Argentina, Elena has communications experience both in the US and abroad. She has been active on the SCU campus as a Student Ambassador throughout her academic career and more recently serving as the VP of public relations for SCU Associated Student Government. In this role, she oversees all communications, marketing and publicity for the student government. In summer 2020, she worked as a public relations intern for NBC Entertainment and is currently a communication Intern for a software startup in the Bay Area. In 2021, Elena found her love for cooking and started her own healthy-cooking blog and social media page, which has led her to pursue food-focused public relations after graduation. She is grateful for the SFPRRT scholarship, which will help pay off her student loans and ease her transition into post-college life.
Holly Nguyen – Saint Mary’s College of California
Holly Nguyen is a senior at Saint Mary’s College of California, with a triple major in Marketing, Digital Media and Communication. In addition to making the dean’s honor roll every semester, she has been involved in communications and public relations opportunities both in and beyond the classroom for worthy causes. She serves on the Undergraduate Advisory Board where she works with the School of Economic and Business Administration to improve her undergraduate peers’ academic experiences. She is the VP of marketing and communications for the school’s Marketing Club and is an active member of the Communication Club and the Gael Women in Business Network. Off campus, Holly runs an Instagram page with nearly 40,000 followers, where she innovatively utilizes meme marketing to re-post and generate content to market small upcoming brands with a low marketing budget. She also interns with a healthcare marketing agency. Holly has a long-term goal of getting a master’s in public and media relations and hopes to work in healthcare/medicine and “to positively contribute and be one with her community.”
How We Choose: Our winners were chosen based on their commitment to the PR/communications field as evidenced by courses, volunteer activities, internships and the like, their academic accomplishments, the quality of their writing samples, the strength of their letters of recommendation, and their potential to give back and make a difference. All have worked hard to get where they are, often while overcoming significant challenges: being the first in their family to attend college, growing up in a struggling single-parent immigrant family, working two or three jobs at a time to support themselves, and/or adapting to a new country and a new language.
—Story by Board Member Kathleen Brennan of Exelixis
Watch the recording of the event on YouTube (introduction and comments from students begin at 59:34).