National Capital Chapter

PRSSA Student Profile: Zachary Gradishar

Name: Zachary Gradishar

Where do you go to school and what are you studying?

I am currently a junior at American University in Washington, D.C. I am majoring in Public Relations & Strategic Communication and minoring in Marketing.

What are your favorite things to do in D.C.?

I love to walk around the National Mall, especially during the cherry blossom season. Georgetown is one of my favorite places in D.C. because I like to visit the waterfront, stores, and restaurants in that beautiful area.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love to cook, watch movies and television shows, and hang out with friends.

How long have you been involved with PRSSA, and why did you decide to join?

I joined PRSSA during my freshman year at American University to access professional development opportunities. As a member, I can participate in great events and network with other members and professionals. During my sophomore year, I moved into a leadership role as a member of AU PRSSA’s executive board.

Tell us a little about your work on Diversity and Inclusion initiatives through PRSSA.

I currently serve on AU PRSSA’s executive board as the Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Service. This position has allowed me to do amazing work. In January 2020, I spear-headed a service event dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. titled “Injustice – Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere.” During this event, we assembled hygiene bags for Thrive DC, a local nonprofit that supports people experiencing homelessness. 

Additionally, I have organized and executed various chapter meetings and discussion panels focused on diversity and inclusion topics. Last year, I moderated a virtual panel event, “Diversity Across Public Relations,” which allowed students and community members to engage on the topic of diversity and inclusion with public relations professionals from various industries and organizations. The purpose of this event was to facilitate a discussion for students of color to learn how others navigate the industry as minorities, while also educating non-POC students about the experiences that their current/future colleagues of color face in the workplace. 

The panel consisted of four racially and gender diverse members and represented different facets of the public relations industry. They were: Jackeline Stewart (U.S. Head of Multicultural Communications at Edelman), Kasmer Quinn (Media Relations Senior Specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital), Chloe Dulce Louvouezo (Communications Officer and Diversity & Inclusion Facilitator at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), and José Muñoz (Communications Manager at United We Dream). This event had a great turnout and generated a phenomenal discussion.

Recently, I received the 2020 PRSA’s Ofield Dukes Multicultural Student Award for my diversity and inclusion efforts with AU PRSSA.  

Are there any projects that you’ve particularly liked working on? 

One initiative this semester that I particularly loved working on was to highlight Black History Month. I created a social media campaign featuring communication and public relations strategies and tactics used during the civil rights movement. I also created a social media campaign called “Black PR Pioneers” to spotlight various black professionals who were influential in the public relations field, such as Barbara Harris. As a minority, Harris encountered a variety of barriers and challenges throughout her life, but that did not stop her. She was the first woman of color to handle public relations for major corporate accounts. She was also heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement, marching with Dr. King in Selma in 1965. The campaign helped educate both AU PRSSA and the broader AU community about those who paved the way for PR practitioners of color today.

Can you tell us about an achievement you are proud of?

Last year, I helped create AU PRSSA’s Diversity & Inclusion Barbara Harris Scholarship to commemorate her work to pave the way for minorities in PR. This scholarship covers annual membership dues for minority students who wish to join our chapter, but may face financial hurdles. The scholarship has been active for three consecutive semesters and I hope it will continue after I graduate next year. 

What do you want to do after graduation? 

After graduation, I plan to take a gap year to travel (hopefully COVID-19 will be under control) and develop my portfolio. After that, I plan to apply to film school at the University of Southern California – a dream of mine. I ultimately intend to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

Have you had any internships? If so, can you tell us about your favorite one? 

I have had four internships, but my favorite is the time I spent as a Media Relations & Marketing Intern at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago during the Summer of 2019. I was able to gain valuable work experience by writing pitches for both national and local news stories and I managed Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Twitter media relations account. I facilitated media shoots, events, and press conferences. I wrote an article published on the Northwestern website and featured in the newsletter. 

There were two highlights from this internship. First, I was able to orchestrate and land a live segment on a local television network. The other was the opportunity to collaborate with a team to create and successfully present a comprehensive marketing strategy and advertisement campaign to Northwestern leadership and executives. Overall, this was a great internship experience and one I will never forget.

What’s one piece of career advice that you received or would like to share? 

One of my favorite pieces of career advice that meant a lot to me was from Myles Worthington, the Director of Brand Marketing & Editorial at Netflix. He told me to always remember your worth and continue to work hard no matter what obstacles you are faced with; thus, you will achieve ultimate success.