By: Macy Rosen
Brenna Parker, a 2017 public relations graduate of Kent State’s School of Media and Journalism (formerly named School of Journalism and Mass Communication), who now serves as the Digital Director for Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House, shared highlights of her career journey with a packed room of students in Franklin Hall, the same building Parker said she could never forget.
She did not know what she wanted to do throughout high school and college, but “she looks for high adventure,” Professor Stephanie Smith said. When Parker graduated, that’s just what she did. Parker moved to Washington D.C. after college and started working for the nonprofit, Civic Nation.
In the years following her graduation from Kent State, Brenna has worked on some of the biggest movements of the last five years, including leading digital communications for the National Domestic Workers Alliance during the #MeToo movement, the family separation crisis for Families Belong Together and media relations for the student walkouts in response to the 2018 Parkland shooting.
Currently, Parker is responsible for all of Vice President Harris’ social media accounts, content partnerships, online content and more. Parker said she must be intentional about her content in this position. Parker returned to campus to be honored with the Outstanding New Professional award from the Kent State Alumni Association. She made time to speak with students and faculty about her experiences and shared valuable career and life advice.
Madison Goerl, PRSSA Vice President of Professional Relations, served as a moderator for the conversation with Parker. Interestingly, Parker served in the same PRSSA Kent leadership role when she was a Kent State student.
“Working with Brenna was such a great experience,” Goerl said. “She is truly paving the way for women in the field.”
Parker encouraged every student to take the leap if they want to; move out of Ohio and make connections. She told students they can be just as successful as Ivy League graduates.
“If you're somebody from Ohio and you're trying to break through (in a big market), you're competing against people that already live in cities, you're competing with students at GW, you're competing with students at NYU,” Parker said. “They're already there making those connections and building those networks.”
She advised students to begin networking while they’re in college and to be strategic when applying for jobs. Rather than blindly applying for jobs, Parker advised students to be selective and conduct research. She recommended students try to find someone they may know at the organization and share their interest in the job with that person.
“Brenna’s story was truly so inspiring to me,” said Angie Robinette, a freshman public relations major. “She explained how networking is very important in the PR world, and you should always put yourself out there because you never know who can connect you to an opportunity.”
When discussing the topic of dignity and respect in the workplace, Parker inspired every female in the room. She told students her experiences of often being the youngest person in the room and having to fight for ideas and strategies to reach people effectively.
“Learning how to advocate for yourself looks different for everybody, it is sometimes the hardest thing to do, and it changes with every year, every job that you do,” Parker said.
Her experiences and opinions brought tears to the eyes of many students in the room.
“Brenna was one of the most inspirational speakers I've had the privilege of listening to at Kent State,” PRKent student Francesca Malinky said. “I really enjoyed hearing about her honest tribulations through her career in D.C., and it was comforting to think that I am in the same position she was in college. That really gave me a lot of inspiration and hope for my future as a PR major.”