Challenge for Emerging Leaders, New York


Nineteen public relations students gathered at Syracuse University’s Lubin House in New York City to take part in the third Challenge for Emerging Leaders, hosted by The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations from November 8-10.

With the overall goal of developing and inspiring emerging leaders, the Challenge is an intensive, hands-on leadership workshop. Dr. Bruce Berger, research director of the Center and program director for the Challenge, said, “Research reveals that experiences like the Challenge can energize young leaders, accelerate their development and inspire their vision for leadership.”

“Professionals in the field have access to many development programs,” Berger said, “but such opportunities are limited for students and young professionals.”

The Challenge brought together public relations seniors from Monmouth University, Quinnipiac University, Rowan University, Seton Hall University and Syracuse University. Students were selected by their department chairs based on their high-leadership potential, demonstrated academic achievements and diverse backgrounds and experiences. The overall goal is to develop and inspire these emerging leaders and enrich the profession’s future.

The Challenge participants were:

  • Gabby Apuzzo, Seton Hall University
  • Sarah Rose Auerbach, Seton Hall University
  • Shakirah Brightly, Monmouth University
  • Kelly Carr, Seton Hall University
  • Ashley Carter, Rowan University
  • Luna Charles, Quinnipiac University
  • Deanna DiRienzo, Quinnipiac University
  • Catherine Fabiano, Quinnipiac University
  • Chelsea Jones, Quinnipiac University
  • GiGi Kawar, Syracuse University
  • Eric A. Lamadrid, Seton Hall University
  • Cole Massie, Syracuse University
  • Kathleen McQuarrie, Seton Hall University
  • Anya Mourovannyi, Rowan University
  • Najah N. Pryor, Monmouth University
  • Daniella Scarmato, Monmouth University
  • Julia Trainor, Syracuse University
  • Kyle Trapp, Syracuse University
  • Valtina Xu, Syracuse University

The program was delivered by Dr. Peter Hammerschmidt, president of Leadership Consulting Services and professor at Eckerd College, Florida. Students also had the opportunity to learn from some of the best professionals and academics in the industry, including:

  • Bruce Berger, professor emeritus of advertising and public relations at the University of Alabama and board member for the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations;
  • Keith Burton, chair of the Center’s Board of Advisors and principal of Grayson Emmett Partners;
  • Gary Grates, principal at W2O Group;
  • Jennifer Lowney, head of corporate communications for Citi;
  • Daniel O’Donnell, head of corporate communications at AIG;
  • Radina Russell, VP of corporate communications and external relations for Macy’s Inc.;
  • Michael Sneed, EVP of global corporate affairs and chief communications officer at Johnson & Johnson.

The Challenge emphasized advancement in four key competencies: deepen understanding of leadership; enrich leadership values and beliefs; expand leadership skills and capacity; and model appropriate behaviors. These competencies were addressed through activities and assessments drawn from eight core development areas: self-awareness, listening skills, conflict management, organizational dynamics, business acumen, critical thinking, team leadership and ethical orientation.

Along with the activities and assessments, students were divided up into teams to work through a diversity case study. Each group was assigned an industry advisor to motivate, encourage and provide feedback. The advisors were Jada Culver, account researcher at the Brunswick Group; Sarah Dougherty, associate at New York Life; Blair Martin, senior associate at Weber Shandwick; and Jacquie McMahon Hudson, account supervisor at Ketchum.

On the last day, teams presented their case study findings and were awarded a Certificate of Leadership Achievement. The winning team, featuring Chelsea Jones, Eric A. Lamadrid, Anya Mourovannyi, Daniella Scarmato and Julia Trainor were recipients of the Betsy Plank Diversity Case Study Award.

The workshop would not have been possible without the generous support of Johnson & Johnson and W2O Group.