2023 Bruce K. Berger Educator Award Recipient, Dr. Alisa Agozzino

The Plank Center recognizes and promotes the critical role mentors play in helping to develop leaders and advance the profession and 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 at its annual Milestones in Mentoring Gala. Our question-and-answer series introduces the 2023 Milestones in Mentoring award recipients.

Meet Dr. Alisa Agozzino

Alisa Agozzino, Ph.D., APR, is an assistant professor of public relations at Ohio Northern University. Dr. Agozzino teaches various classes, including Introduction to Public Relations, Public Relations Writing, Principles of Social Media, Public Relations Research and Public Relations Campaigns.

Dr. Agozzino’s research interest lies in social media tools within the public relations profession. Her current research agenda examines how social media impacts different industries.

Read on to learn what mentorship means to Alisa!

What Is Your Mentorship Approach and What Advice Do You Give Your Mentees?

I make sure I allow time to check in on folks. Many of you probably know the fabulous Gary McCormick. I did my first CEPR accreditation visit with Gary. We were talking about books, and he recommended ‘never eat alone’ to read. One tip (of the many) I picked up in that book was to constantly use your dead time to follow up with others – especially when you don’t need anything! Since reading that advice, many of my 40-minute commutes between my home and the university consist of phone calls with different folks. Most of the calls include alumni of our program who I’ve had in class over the past 17 years. It brings me joy to hear about their journeys and successes since leaving ONU.

I am constantly asking students if they’ve checked in with their mentors lately. Not to ask them for a favor but to simply check in to see how things are going. I encouraged them to ask if there was anything that they could do for them. This is a two-way street, and if the mentee can provide value, how awesome is that?!

What Have You Found To Be the Most Important Key To Having a Successful Mentor/Mentee Relationship?

Authentic transparency. (Sorry- can I give any more industry buzzwords?!). But really, you have to be yourself. Not every pairing will be a good fit, particularly when mentors/mentees are assigned through a program. The more authentic and transparent you can be with each other, the more opportunity you acquire to ensure the relationship is sustainable.

Please Summarize Your Professional Career Including Its High and Low Points. (How Did You Work Your Way up the Ladder? How Has Having a Mentor Influenced Your Career Path? What Have You Learned Along the Way? What Factors Contributed Most to Your Success? How Did You Navigate Challenges To Reach Your Current Position?)

I didn’t start out teaching, but I did my internship at Ketchum, and then life hit at the end of my senior year in college (I’ll spare you the details). I decided I no longer wanted to move out of the state of Ohio and needed a job after graduation. I had worked as a tour guide in our admissions office at Ohio Northern University, and they offered me a job working as an admissions counselor after graduation.

I worked in the admissions office for 4 ½ years while I got my masters in public relations. I was lucky enough to be tasked with creating and distributing many of the communication pieces (viewbooks, college visit day brochures, fact sheets, direct mailers), keeping my PR skills sharp during my time. However, when I started teaching as a graduate assistant in my Ph.D. program, I knew I found a love for academia. Working with students fed my passion. In academia, there is a very straight and detailed ladder to progress from GA to full professor. I’m now on the last rung of that ladder.

Looking back, I couldn’t have done any of it without a strong mentor. One of my greatest professional mentors was Steve Iseman, who was my professor in undergrad, my colleague and now my friend. He truly guided me through the academic process. He was the first to ask if I’d be interested in returning to grad school and becoming his colleague. He’s been one of my trusted advisers throughout the public relations landscape and one of my biggest cheerleaders any time he reads/hears of my success.

Factors that contribute to my success? Drive/Grit. I’m ‘old school’ where saying you are going to do something is a commitment not to be taken lightly. I am a former collegiate athlete who competed at the national level, so I have some competitiveness. Competitiveness drives some of my grit. I know I have an unbelievable work ethic (one that doesn’t sleep much), and that ‘exhausts’ most, but tell me I can’t achieve a goal and then stand back and watch the magic happen!

Now it’s time for some fun and rapid-fire questions!

What’s Your Favorite Way To Spend a Saturday?

Lounging with the family in our backyard oasis or hanging out with them near the water!

Favorite App?

Fetch – never heard of it? I’ll send you an invite so we both get points!

If Given the Choice to Trade Places With Anyone (Living or Dead) For One Day, Who Would It Be and Why?

Walt Disney. I would love to live in his shoes to see and understand his vision at a deeper level.

Favorite Place to Vacation and Why?

I recently read a meme on Facebook that read, “I don’t have a favorite place, I have my favorite people. And whenever I’m with my favorite people, it becomes my favorite place.” I LOVE this. There is so much truth in this for me. Although I will say – some of my favorite people love to be on a cruise ship!

My leadership tip is… to model/practice behaviors you want others to emulate.

My mentorship tip is… to follow up with your mentor/mentee and build a relationship, not a resume bullet point. Mentorship is not a checkbox. It’s a lifelong opportunity (and, for me – a blessing!).

Every mentor is… busy. Make the time to build the relationship.

A lesson that took you the longest to learn… saying no. I’m still a “work in process,” but at some point, you have to decipher what works into your schedule and what simply cannot. Being realistic up front and setting boundaries helps to eliminate disappointment with a lack of follow-through. So when I say ‘no’ to a project, I think I’m doing us all a favor by giving plenty of time to find someone who can commit to the ‘yes.’

Habits in your daily routine that strengthen your leadership skills… colored and erasable pens help me stay organized and keep up with commitments.

Three things you do to inspire and encourage teamwork

  1. LISTEN first. Speak second.
  2. Capitalize on each team member’s strengths.
  3. Communicate clearly and often.