The following is a first-person reflection written by PRSSA Vice President and Public Affairs Communications Tieger Fellow, Sarah Dorr.
Last month, eight Grady College students traveled from Athens to the Nation’s Capital for the return of PRSSA’s annual D.C. Agency Tour. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, PRSSA members were given the unique opportunity to visit some of Washington, D.C.’s premier public relations agencies, including APCO Worldwide, PLUS Communications, Penta, Weber Shandwick and a U.S. Senate press office.
I was lucky enough to be among the eight students on the tour. As someone who previously participated in a Grady Study Away Trip in New York City, I knew I was in store for an equally enriching and enjoyable week, especially with Professor Joseph Watson, Jr. leading the trip.
“It was a pleasure to renew this trip and introduce a great group of public relations students to what our nation’s capital has to offer,” said Watson. “Hopefully, some of these students will return to D.C. one day and have productive and fulfilling careers there.”
We kicked off our tour with visits to APCO Worldwide and PLUS Communications. Both agencies gave a thorough overview of their services and hosted roundtable discussions, giving us a chance to ask our own questions on topics like daily routines, work-life balance and internship opportunities.
“The APCO and PLUS Communications teams were so welcoming,” said PRSSA internal communications director and program participant Ansley McLendon. “I really appreciated getting to ask specific questions and expanding my network.”
Our trip happened to line up with the Grady D.C. Alumni Mixer, so we concluded the night hearing from Grady grads who have successfully made the transition from the Classic City to the Federal City. The group’s main takeaway: D.C. is smaller than it seems. We were often told that everyone in the city is connected by, at most, two degrees of separation, so take advantage of the professional connections you make, especially within Bulldog Nation.
Day two of the trip began with the highly anticipated tour of the Capitol led by Hannah Payne (AB ’21), a Grady alumna and current digital director for the Office of U.S. Senator Rick Scott. We hit some iconic spots within the building, including the Capitol Rotunda, National Statuary Hall and the not-so-secret underground tunnels. The tour was topped off with a brief visit to the Senate Gallery, where our own Senator Warnock happened to be presiding when we passed through.
“Getting the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Capitol was such a unique experience and definitely a highlight of the trip,” said participant Lauren Kim. “It was almost surreal to walk through such famous buildings and casually brush shoulders with members of Congress.”
We finished off our trip with visits to Penta (formerly Hamilton Place Strategies) and Weber Shandwick, rounding out the diverse lineup of agencies that are leading the pack in the world of public affairs communications.
“Penta and Weber Shandwick provided such valuable insight as someone hoping to pursue a career in public affairs,” said participant and upcoming Grady D.C. Field Study student Gracie Englund. “Hearing from industry leaders created a full picture of what living and working in D.C. is like, and I could not be more excited to experience it this summer!”
As someone who is looking at working in D.C. post-graduation, I couldn’t be more grateful for this trip. It just goes to show that even over 500 miles from campus, PRSSA and Grady are there to provide helpful insights, connections and life experiences (I’m looking at you D.C. Metro!) needed to succeed in our respective career journeys.