Recent UA grads help students get their sh*t together: New Grad Panel featuring UA alumni left students feeling encouraged


Photo by Julie Cajigas

By Alexa Baumberger, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The University of Akron’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) held an event that inspired current students earlier this fall. The event, a new grad panel, featured recent graduates from the School of Communication. Students past and present were given the opportunity to swap stories and advice. 

Though the panel was focused on Communication careers, the alumni speakers sprinkled words of wisdom beneficial for students in any major program to hear. 

The graduate-turned-motivational speakers on the panel included 2021–2022 graduates Summer Torok, Stephanie Fairchild, Enrique Antonio and Jaina Gedeon. 

Natalie Mowad, a senior Public Relations major served as moderator for students from the chapter. Professors Julie Cajigas and McKenna Vietmeier also attended the event.

The purpose of this event was to advise students scholastically, but there was much more in store. 

Topics about dealing with imposter syndrome (the feeling of self-doubt often experienced by new employees) sparked conversation.  

“It’s really just trial and error and working through the process. Eventually, you’ll feel more comfortable,” Stephanie Fairchild, Public Relations Specialist at Metro Regional Transit Authority, said. 

Panelists also talked about how they wished they learned how to be gentler on themselves sooner, especially with job searching

“Don’t give up,” Fairchild said. “When it’s hard, and you can’t find a job right away, don’t give up.”  

The panel also described the job search process as a time for practicing social skills and exploring the field. 

“It’s really more about the person you are,” said Enrique Antonio, Marketing and Content Coordinator at Greater Akron Chamber. 

The panel also advised students that during the interviewing process, they can get to know the organization they are applying to better.

One panelist suggested that students should imagine they are interviewing the company during the question-and-answer part of the job interview.

Another point emphasized by the panel was getting involved during college and taking advantage of student life. The panelists agreed that students can gain applicable skills through internships, student organizations, mock-interviews and more.

Believing in oneself was an ongoing theme as panelists talked about pitching projects to supervisors.

Jaina Gedeon, Communication Associate at Hunter International Recruiting said, “I was really nervous at first to be like, ‘Hey, I have this idea,’ but, if you have something really cool, worst-case scenario they say is, ‘Hey, maybe we’ll try that later.’”

Summer Torok, Public Relations Specialist at Lake County Board of Commissioners stressed that deadlines may exist for specific aspects of work, but not for someone’s destiny. 

“You’re not on a four-year timeline,” Torok said.

Attendees were left with their final food for thought. “You deserve confidence, even if you don’t feel you deserve it,” said Vietmeier.

A quote that stuck with many of the students came from Fairchild. “Inside it feels like you’re supposed to know everything. But really, no one expects that of you. Anxiety is a liar,” she said.  

Though students came to the New Grad Panel seeking information on coursework and careers, they left with deeper insight than they could have anticipated and advice they can carry with them far beyond the classroom.