Erie Resident Awarded Public Relations Society of America National Scholarships

Duquesne University senior Rachel Willis was recently awarded two national scholarships from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation-the John D. Graham Scholarship and the Betsy Plank Scholarship-for her commitment to upholding an ethical practice of public relations through scholarship, leadership and professional experience. She was one of just 23 scholarship recipients from around the nation.

"I'm extremely thrilled and honored to receive these recognitions," Willis said. "They speak not only for my passion for public relations and communications, but to the power of the relationships I have built with Duquesne and Pittsburgh-area PR professionals."

The public relations and international relations major said communicating, story-telling and relationship building have always come naturally for her. "Building relationships is so authentically me, so it made sense to pursue public relations to apply my passion for communicating to the professional world," said Willis, who is a native of Erie, Pa. 

Willis is active in Duquesne campus organizations like Strong Women, Strong Girls-which supports positive relationships between college-age women and pre-adolescent girls in underserved Pittsburgh neighborhoods-and the University's Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. She has also completed four internships in the communications field with the Women to Women Conference, Small Farm Central, Pittsburgh-based Gatesman agency and, most recently, with Edelman communications and marketing firm in Washington, D.C.

In addition, Willis was a Duquesne Honors Fellow for Women and Gender Studies in 2016-2017, and she studied abroad for a semester in Valparaiso, Chile, where she conducted a research project on the emergence of feminist movements at universities there.

"Without the support of my Duquesne professors, Pittsburgh public relations professional contacts and my peers, I would not have received the education, mentorship and encouragement I needed to succeed in my early PR career," Willis said.

Upon her December 2017 graduation, Willis plans to pursue a full-time position at a public relations agency.   Scholarship awards will be presented during the PRSA National Conference on Oct. 9 in Boston, Mass.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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