Senior Wins Prestigious Public Relations Scholarships

Sana Merchant, a senior corporate communications and public affairs major, was named the winner of two national awards presented by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation. The awards were handed out Monday, October 18, at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. during the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) 2010 National Conference.

sanamerchant.jpgThe first scholarship is the 2010 Marcia Silverman Minority Student Award, a $5,000 scholarship presented to a minority senior college student who demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, leadership skills and a commitment to entering the public relations profession. The award is new this year and is funded by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.

The second award is the John D. Graham Scholarship, funded by Fleishman-Hilliard, a $3,000 award given to a college senior in a journalism or public relations program who plans to enter the public relations field.

Merchant serves as president of both the campus PRSSA chapter and the Indian Students Association. She is also a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, and is a Robert Redman Foundation Scholar. In addition, she is active in the SMU Program Council and Muslim Students Association and holds a leadership position in the Delta Delta Delta sorority.


“Sana is one of those rare students who takes your breath away with her energy and intellect,” said Christina Baily-Byers, APR, the PRSSA faculty adviser and a lecturer in public relations in the Meadows School of the Arts’ Division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. “She has one of the most intense work ethics I have seen in 16 years of teaching. She excels in her studies and participates in numerous organizations while working two jobs and never missing a deadline. She set a goal to complete seven internships before graduating and is well on her way; she’s completed terms with Edelman, Robbins Brothers, and The Dallas Morning News and is currently an intern with The Marketing Arm.”

Said Merchant: “I come from a traditional Indian family where steering away from a medical profession is not an option. But at SMU, I discovered and fell in love with public relations, and knew that it was my calling. Through the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Division at the Meadows School, and through my experiences with PRSSA, I have found a new direction for my career. I am tremendously honored and grateful to have been chosen for these scholarships.”

In addition to the scholarship awards for Merchant, SMU’s chapter of PRSSA won a Frederick H. Teahan Award for Outstanding Professional Adviser during the ceremony. The adviser, Gail Chandler, APR, Public Affairs Communications at Texas Instruments and a member of PRSA Dallas, has supported SMU’s chapter through mentoring, providing career advice, and initiating a community service project for the chapter. Chandler received a trophy, and the SMU PRSSA chapter received $200.

It is the fourth Teahan Award applied for, and won, by SMU’s PRSSA chapter in the past two years. SMU’s PRSSA chapter was revitalized in 2008. In fall 2009, the chapter won three Frederick H. Teahan Awards at the PRSSA National Conference in San Diego. SMU received top honors for Outstanding Chapter Development, Outstanding PRSA/PRSSA Chapter Relationship, and Outstanding Chapter Faculty Adviser, winning a total of $800 in addition to two plaques and a trophy.

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