The future looks bright for two graduating Niagara College Public Relations students who are in the limelight after earning accolades from the Canadian Public Relations Society.
The Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) Hamilton formally recognized Public Relations students Nicolas Mertens (Hamilton) and Rita Stranges (Niagara Falls) as part of its 2021 Special Awards. Held virtually on May 13, the CPRS Hamilton Special Awards recognize exceptional leadership and action in the public relations profession.
Mertens won the CPRS 2021 Student Award of Excellence, which is granted annually to a student from a full-time PR program who has demonstrated: a clear understanding and application of the principles of public relations theory, professionalism and leadership in personal and scholastic activities, a commitment to the future of the profession, and the ability to make contributions to the status and acceptance of the profession.
Stranges was honoured with the CPRS Hamilton’s Heather J. Pullen Memorial Award, which recognizes a student who is committed to lifelong learning and funds the recipient’s transition from student CPRS member to Affiliate Member status. The award was established this year in memory of Heather J. Pullen, who served as its accreditation chair from 2014 to 2019.
“The Student Award of Excellence presented to Nicolas Mertens and the Heather J. Pullen Memorial Award presented to Rita Stranges reflect the hard work and dedication of these two emerging PR professionals,” said CPRS Hamilton Chapter Pinnacle Awards co-chairs Carrie Trembinski and Audrey Ready Holt. “We hope they will continue to be a part of CPRS Hamilton to take advantage of the unique professional development, networking, and recognition opportunities our chapter is pleased to provide to PR professionals throughout their careers.”
Both Mertens and Stranges will be among the College’s Class of 2021 graduates at Spring Convocation in June, after recently completing NC’s PR Graduate Certificate program.
For Mertens, receiving the CPRS award was a confidence booster as he begins his career.
“No imposter syndrome, just hitting the ground running – and running fast,” said Mertens, who recently began working as a social media and content coordinator for a Toronto-based PR agency in addition to ongoing freelance work.
PR program coordinator Emily McInerney noted that Mertens made a positive impression on his instructors, peers and industry guest speakers within the first few weeks of beginning the program in September and proved himself academically as the top student for both terms.
“Keen, curious and highly engaged, Nicolas brought preparedness and enthusiasm to every single class, every single day,” she said. “His strong focus and work ethic embodied professionalism in the classroom and demonstrated a strong commitment to learning – remaining laser focused on launching his communications career.”
Mertens was flattered to have been nominated for the award by the College’s program faculty.
“I’d be lying if I said reading their testimonials didn’t make me tear up a bit,” he said. “I took a big risk and freelanced my way through school, and it validates all the months of working from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., six or seven days a week.”
For Stranges, winning the Heather J. Pullen Award was personally meaningful.
“Lifelong learning is one of my personal values. With continuous learning comes growth, and with the continuous application of learning comes change,” she said. “I’m honoured to receive such a special award in memory of Heather J. Pullen who, from what I’ve heard, had an unforgettable impact on CPRS Hamilton.”
McInerney applauded her achievement and described Stranges as a student who was fully committed to the program and highly active as a student member of CPRS Hamilton.
“She made every effort to immerse herself in PR, to take on challenges, to network and meet as many industry people (virtually) as she could,” said McInerney. “Academically, she was a strong performer but, more importantly, she was focused on learning and growth: the hallmarks of a lifelong learner.”
Winning the award is just the beginning for Stranges who looks forward to launching her career in the industry.
“My journey is just getting started. I am motivated to learn and grow more every day,” she said.
This marks the third consecutive year that NC students have won awards from the CPRS Hamilton. For information about the CPRS Hamilton Special Awards visitcprshamilton.ca/special-awards.
Niagara College’s Public Relations program is a one-year graduate certificate. For information visit niagaracollege.ca/media/program/public-relations/.
Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine science, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. Visit niagaracollege.ca.