Twin Cities PR BIPOC Career Explorer is a very long title for a program, but it’s one that’s doing some heavy lifting in terms of recruiting students of color into the communications field and more specifically the world of public relations agencies. Padilla is one of six agency collaborators and three university partners who designed and delivered this first-of-its-kind “externship” program for BIPOC students. Students receive a real-world look at the industry through a direct-access learning program and a network of professionals and mentors who are helping them connect with future opportunities in the Twin Cities area and beyond. Thirty-two students completed the six-month inaugural program – more than double our goal – and we’ll be repeating it again in the Fall 2022. Together, the agencies and partners are working to diversify the make-up of the PR industry to better represent the world and the messages we put into it.

Meet Stephanie Onyeiwu, Daniela Hermoza Suarez and Tymia Phathachack – three students who participated in the externship program.

Stephanie Onyeiwu is a 2020 Butler University graduate, where she majored in strategic communications. Originally from the East Coast, she now lives in the Midwest and enjoys music, hot yoga, plants and people. Watch her Q&A video below.

Daniela Hermoza Suarez is a student at Metropolitan State University and is majoring in communications. In her free time, she likes doing outdoor activities and going to concerts.

Tymia Phathachack is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota and majored in journalism. She loves spending time with friends and family, skateboarding, watching anime and good films, concerts and trying new food.

What did you enjoy most about your externship?

Daniela: I enjoyed learning about the different roles within PR. Every session, I walked away feeling extremely inspired even if it was an area that I didn’t see myself pursuing. Knowing about it, seeing case studies and hearing from professionals made it an enjoyable experience. It also helped me narrow down the areas within PR that I am interested in as I was able to ask specific questions and get to know about what the day-to-day work consisted of.

Tymia: This is a program that I had wanted when I was attending the University of Minnesota. After I graduated in May 2021, I received this email for this externship. I knew I had to be involved. This is something I really push students to get involved in, especially if you come from a diverse background. Overall, I really enjoyed my mentor for this externship. My mentor taught me a lot about getting a career within my dream industry and not giving up on it and provided me with in-depth first-hand experience, stories and advice for finding a good career path for myself. I also really enjoyed learning about the different agencies within the Twin Cities. Each agency is unique and different in their own way, which is very cool. 

What have you learned from the network of PR pros and Career Explorer Partners you’ve met in this program?

Daniela: I have learned that people are willing to help you if you ask for it. Throughout the program, I reached out to some of the speakers for one-on-one Zoom meetings. Each meeting that I had, I came prepared with questions and walked away from it feeling fulfilled. I was able to learn from people that have been in the industry for years and have amazing stories and experiences. I was also able to connect with them on a more personal level and share more about myself as well.

Has anything surprised you about agency life?

Daniela: I knew the agency life was fast-paced but wasn’t sure to what extent. This was surprising to me because each day at work can bring something different. I enjoyed learning about all the different roles you can have within an agency and how each project can bring something new.

What has been challenging (or rewarding) about an entirely virtual experience?

Daniela: Something challenging about the entirely virtual experience is that you don’t get the face-to-face connection. If we were to have been in person, it might have created an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with speakers and fellow participants in the program. However, I did find it rewarding that although it was fully virtual, we could still engage with people from across the U.S., and we had the ability to learn from the comfort of our homes.

Tymia: It’s been a bit challenging not having this experience in person. Mainly because it can be challenging at times to network with so many different people at the same time as other students. Although this was challenging, I think it’s very impressive and rewarding to learn how to network in this way due to the pandemic. It’s been rewarding learning about everyone else’s life experience as well as their experiences with careers during these times. 

What advice would you share with the next generation of students interested in a PR and communications career?

Daniela: The advice I would share for the next generation of students is to be willing to learn and absorb everything that is being shared with you. There is so much you can do in PR and communications and that is why I am so passionate about this career. You’re always learning new things that will help you as you continue your career. As you are learning new things, make sure to ask questions. Never be afraid to ask questions because it will not only help you, but it might help others as well.

In three words, how would you describe your externship experience?

Daniela: Inspiring. Influential. Stimulating.

Tymia: Educational. Reassuring. Inclusive.

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