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Panelists Provide “Real World” Advice and Insights to USM Students

April 18, 2016

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (April 18, 2016) — Four recent graduates gathered at the University of Southern Mississippi on April 5 to enlighten members of the university’s Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) on the “Welcome to the Real World” recent graduate panel.

The panel included Southern Mississippi alumni Ashley Doubleday, Karelia Schmitz and Mercedes Livingston. Erica Sweeney, a 2014 alumna of the Louisiana State University Manship School of Mass Communication, also joined the conversation. Following introductions of the panelists, a series of questions ranging from challenges on the job to advice for students were addressed.

The young professionals attributed successes achieved early in their careers to opportunities gained through PRSSA, internships and mentors.

“I found a mentor in every internship and job I had,” said Mercedes Livingston, public relations and digital strategies manager at the Hattiesburg Convention Commission. “Don’t discredit any of your connections, jobs or internships.”

Having employed this advice during her undergraduate career, Schmitz, manager of communications for the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, felt prepared for graduate school and the workforce.

“I don’t think there’s anything I wish I had learned when transitioning into grad[uate] school,” she said. “I feel like I was prepared.”

According to Doubleday, director of communications and marketing at the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, soft skills can be equally important as public relations abilities in landing a position.

“Your soft skills are so important,” she said. “Anyone can learn to write a press release, but the way you present yourself and go about life is something that employers are really going to look for. They want to know that you can represent their company well.”

Sweeney, the public relations specialist at Innovative Advertising, LLC., who began her career more than six months prior to graduation, explained that she missed the transition stage and learned from the experience. Although she felt prepared, she shared the importance of continued education after entering the profession.

“I think you do yourself a real disservice if you don’t continue discovering best practices, staying on top of trends, getting certifications and going to monthly meetings and luncheons to hear from speakers and learn from their experiences,” she said.

The two-hour session ended with a Q&A segment and networking between panelists and students.



The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) was founded Oct. 30, 1980. The School of Mass Communication and Journalism, our parent organization and local practitioners offer members professional development and networking opportunities. The resources help students enhance their education and broaden their network to launch their careers. Membership is open to students of all classes and majors.



Jasmine C. Tate

USM PRSSA President