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A Letter from Central Ohio PRSA’s 2021 President by Diane Hurd, vice president, Inspire PR Group

Greetings, Central Ohio PRSA Members:

I am honored and grateful to serve as your 2021 president. For more than a decade, I have actively served PRSA in various roles – both on the committee level and through Board service.

I want to thank Katie Thomas, APR, for her incredible leadership in 2020, along with our dedicated Board members and volunteers. Despite the extraordinary challenges faced, we quickly pivoted to continue offering relevant virtual programming, raised awareness and built upon our diversity and inclusion initiatives, celebrated successes, awarded scholarships to aspiring PR professionals, among many other accomplishments.

As we look forward in 2021, we have a renewed opportunity to make forward progress. The chapter’s Board of Directors and committee members have already been working hard and have many exciting plans for the year, including:

  • Enhancing chapter communications through redesigning our website and newsletter
  • Continuing to focus on diversity and inclusion programming led by Diversity & Inclusion Officer Shanikka Flinn
  • Providing dynamic monthly programming focusing on trends, relevant topics, and case studies geared toward all career levels
  • Executing a professional development conference in late summer
  • Celebrating our successes through an annual awards ceremony
  • Hosting an APR Boot Camp to guide candidates through the process of achieving an accreditation in public relations
  • Exploring and implementing innovative ways to host networking opportunities for our members
  • Supporting the next generation of PR professionals through programming and scholarships


I encourage you to reach out to me with ideas, questions and opportunities to help the betterment of our organization. I am looking forward to working with you in the coming year and hope to see you at a virtual event soon!


Warm regards,
Diane Hurd
[email protected]
Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn


Diane Hurd is vice president of Inspire PR Group, a full-service public relations and digital firm that serves as a trusted partner to valued clients including nationally recognized brands, businesses, trade associations and non-profits. She currently serves as president of PRSA Central Ohio, is a Board member for the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center, and an alum of the 2020 Leadership Columbus class. When she isn't chasing after her three boys, Diane enjoys volunteering with local community organizations and finding her next marathon to run.

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Partnerships & Collaborations Can Advance D&I Movement Recap

One of the amazing benefits of being a member of PRSA is access to the most amazing talent in the industry and the open opportunity to engage and grow as a communicator. This has been a very challenging year on many levels and the need to clearly communicate has never been greater. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee has hosted several “Diverse Dialogues” webinars that address communication responses to key cultural issues. 

The most recent event I attended was on Wednesday, December 9, and the topic was “Partnerships and Collaborations can advance the D&I Movement." The panel discussion was incredible and ended up going longer than one hour due to the compelling exchanges throughout. The discussion was moderated by Felicia Blow, APR,  co-chair of PRSA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and Andrea Gils Monzon, co-chair of the PRSA Diversity and Inclusion Committee and joined by:

  • Garland Stansell, APR, PRSA Chair
  • Lauren Wesley Wilson - Founder and CEO, ColorComm Media Group
  • Naomi Tacuyan Underwood - Executive Director, Asian American Journalists Association
  • Terry Allen - National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Media Related Task Force Chair
  • Rebecca Aguilar - Emmy Award-Winning Reporter and President-Elect for the Society of Professional Journalists

The question, "How can we have more diversity and inclusion, where do we find solutions?" was raised during the hour. The need is urgent and the answers begin from within. We have the ability right now where we work to create dialogue and seek collaborations and partnership. It was suggested that laziness and not lack of diverse talent is a pressing issue. Look within your current organization and support and advance those individuals that have the ability to excel and not just do the job. Be creative and strategic and think outside the box.

The recurring theme was partnerships. How do we effectively communicate with our corporate partners and share our needs and be as strategic as we can be. If our own organizations are not diverse, “how can we preach it?" The group conveyed many times that there needs to be less talk about change and more action.  The good news is advocacy meetings are taking place on local, regional, and national levels to address the situation.  One panelist, Terry Allen, said it very well: “We cannot turn a blind eye, we cannot live in a silent agreement that everything is okey-dokey”. The definition of diversity is “I see you, inclusion is defined as “I hear you." We truly need to empower each other so true equity can exist.

Not only is action the right thing to do, it is good for business.  Many comments were shared about the financial rewards for companies that embrace diversity and Inclusion and gender diversity in all levels of the organization. It is very similar to the concepts of synergy that Stephen R. Covey spoke of in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People;" we all accomplish more than we do when we work alone. I also think of painter Bob Ross who created new perspectives by blending what was already on the canvas and creating something unique.

The exciting news is PRSA has been very proactive and engaging its member base to create collaboration and solutions. PRSA has launched it’s D&I Strategic Plan 2020-2022. The PRSA 2021 board is the most diverse ever and has an excellent vision for this organization of over 21,000 members. We are thankful for our Central Ohio D&I representative, Shanikka Flinn. It is wonderful to see our chapter support this amazing initiative.

Let’s all be a part of this conversation. Let’s increase our collaboration as a chapter and where we work. Let’s be intentional with our communication and help equip our existing team members to be recognized, promoted, and encourage equity and excellence.  Think outside of the box and never be afraid to share. We learned these lessons early in life, now is the time to consistently put them into action. Go to Diversity & Inclusion and make a difference for our future and a stronger PRSA.

Chris Grindrod, Consultant,Chris Grindrod PR

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A Farewell to 2020

I knew 2020 was going to be an epic year -- I just didn't know the extent of it.

Your Central Ohio PRSA chapter kicked off its 70th anniversary year with top-quality programming, strategic planning and visiting our PRSSA chapters. We were preparing for a new, two-track conference in March and PaRtners, our annual student event in April. After completing one of the biggest projects of my career, the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children's Hospital, I was packing my bags to London for rest and relaxation on March 10. My famous last words to the PRSA Board were, "email me if you need me." Then I added with a laugh, "But I really hope you don't need me."

Little did I know that in between my flight from JFK to Heathrow the governor had started shutting down Ohio. On calls with Past President Alicia Shoults and President-Elect Diane Hurd, we started talking about canceling our in-person events for the unforeseeable future and what that would mean. On my flight, I thought this would mean change for the next month or so and started formulating a plan. And then as the news continued to unfold and I scrambled to get a flight back to the United States, I knew we needed a much bigger plan.

The Board and committees were nimble and resilient, stepping up to handle any curveballs. We pivoted all of our programs to a virtual format, including PRism Awards and our ambitious two-track conference. We worked hard to stay connected to our members.

Then we watched the appalling events leading to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many other members of our Black community, including the recent tragic death of Casey Goodson, Jr. We worked with our colleagues in the East Central District to make a statement that we resolve to do our best as advocates to bring truth to power, act always with justice, and to commit ourselves to an essential role in combating systemic racism.

And we put words into action. We took steps to recognize the individuals and organizations that are inclusive and proactive leaders in the area of diversity and inclusion (D&I) by establishing D&I criteria for our PRism Awards, along with a specific award recognizing this important initiative. We held programming to educate our members on implicit bias and how we can implement change in our organizations. I'm proud of our work to change our bylaws to include a permanent Diversity & Inclusion Officer position on our Board, which will be held by Shanikka Flinn, our Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair. Based on their work this year, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee received an honorable mention from PRSA National, totaling three honorable mentions since 2016.

Now I can't believe this whirlwind year is coming to a close. I am so proud of the additional accomplishments of the chapter as a result of our incredibly talented and dedicated group of volunteers. Just to name a few:

  • Monthly programming, transitioned virtually, featuring women in PR, anti-racism, COVID, the election, ethics and more – 13 total
  • Focused on raising awareness about D&I and programs that feature speakers who represent diverse backgrounds
  • Created a comprehensive list of resources about racial matters, including racism, anti-racism and Black Lives Matters 
  • Submitted bylaws change to create a permanent position on our Board of Directors: Diversity & Inclusion Officer

  • Virtual conference with 2 tracks and 80+ attendees

  • Virtual PRism Awards with more than 150 attendees

  • Scholarship Fund:

    • 6 PRSSA dues funded
    • 3 students to attend conference
    • 1 student to attend PRSA ICON
    • 1 young professional received COVID-19 scholarship to pay for dues
  • PRSSA Leadership Rally and programming for students
  • Biweekly newsletter, private Facebook group, blog and podcast 
  • Central Ohio on the National scene:
    • Featured in PRSA Strategies and Tactics
    • Panelist at National PRSA Leadership Rally
    • Speaker at East Central District Best Practice 
    • Members presented at PRSA Section Conferences and at ICON
    • Alisa Agozzino, APR, named ECD Platinum Award Winner
    • Honorable Mention, Diversity & Inclusion Awards
    • PRSSA Hall of Fame Award

I hope you've benefited from our services this year -- and I know there are many great things to come. The future of the chapter is bright with the leadership of the extraordinary Diane Hurd taking the helm as president and incoming President-Elect Heather Sheppard, along with a team of dedicated board members. I want to thank the leadership of our former board members, Alicia Shoults, Lois Foreman-Wernet, PhD, APR, Courtney Tobin, Kerry Francis and Heather Clark as they end their Board service and our Board members who are continuing to serve: Kristen Vitartas, Michael Vannest, APR, Tara Parsell, Serena Smith, Alisa Agozzino, PhD, APR, Jennifer Rieman, Wendy Schwantes and delegates John Palmer, APR, and Natalie Kompa, EdD, APR.

Serving as your president this year has been one of the highlights of my career and an experience I will never forget. I've loved getting to know many of you through (virtual) coffee chats, meeting our talented students, speaking at the chapters and working with the Board on important initiatives. I hope I've been able to make changes that will positively impact this chapter. Because of our volunteers' amazing commitment, I can say that Central Ohio PRSA is a national model for other PRSA chapters in the United States.  

I urge you to help strengthen the voice of our profession by volunteering on a committee. It's a wonderful way to grow your leadership skills and meet some of the best communications professionals in central Ohio.

Again, I thank you so much for this opportunity. I wish you peace and joy this holiday season.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Katie Thomas, APR 
[email protected]

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RECAP: 2020 PRSA Leadership Assembly

The first-ever fully remote Leadership Assembly of PRSA delegates was held on Saturday, December 5, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Ohio PRSA members Diane Hurd (incoming chapter president), John Palmer, APR, and Dr. Natalie Kompa, APR, represented the chapter. Amendments 20-01 through 20-04 passed easily with a two-thirds majority of delegates. 

Amendment 20-05, which proposed removing the APR requirement from eligibility to serve as a Director at the District level, brought much debate among delegates. Amendment 20-05 ultimately failed to get a two-third majority of affirmative votes, hence tabling the amendment. Proposal 20-06 suggested limiting the term of Leadership Delegates to three years and passed with a two-third majority of votes.  

In the Town Hall portion of the Leadership Assembly, PRSA National Chair T. Garland Stansell, APR, introduced an advocacy initiative called Voices4Everyone. The goal would be to use the power of public relations to shift the conversation and increase civic engagement through better, more inclusive civil discourse. Public relations practitioners would be positioned as thought leaders in combatting misinformation and promoting diversity and inclusion, among other elements of the Voices4Everyone campaign.  

A dedicated website will hold materials to enhance the capabilities of PRSA members. PRSA plans to elicit the input and help of members to build out materials and messaging for the Voices4Everyone initiative. A formal rollout with chapter activation will come in the new year. 

Additionally, new membership models were proposed. Extensive research and recommendations yielded options for members to consider, including Option 1 with one free section membership embedded as part of the membership fee. A second option outlined a tiered, fee-based system for some programming. A third option would be an a la carte option with a lower price point. A fourth option would be a dues model based on the total number of PRSA members across a single company; a flat fee would be charged to the company and allow PRSA resources to be extended to multiple associates. A fifth possibility provides an option for vendors and suppliers to join PRSA for a fee. A sixth option waives the new member initiation and reinstatement fees ($65 and $35 respectively).  

“Serving as a delegate for our chapter is real privilege,” said Palmer. “It’s my second year as a delegate and I’m always impressed by the dedication of PRSA leadership and the passion exhibited through the delegates on behalf of the 20,000 members of our society,” Palmer said. 

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Chapter Board Approves Society Bylaw Changes for Upcoming Assembly

Our Chapter board approved the proposals to amend our Society’s bylaws on Nov. 6. The Chapter’s 2020 Assembly delegates are Natalie Kompa, Ed.D., MBA; Diane Hurd, CTA; and John Palmer, APR. This year’s Assembly will be virtual and will be held Dec. 5.

 PRSA’s Governance Committee developed these proposals putting forth suggested improvements to our bylaws that included feedback from members. This year Assembly delegates will vote on these six proposals that introduce changes to the requirements for serving on the Board of Directors intended to increase diversity and greatly expand the pool of qualified candidates for national office; provide opportunities for Chapter delegates to become more involved in strategic conversations and thought leadership by Chapters electing or appointing representatives at the beginning of the year, rather than closer to Leadership Assembly; and amending Assembly delegate term limits, to allow fresh perspectives to continually be brought to leadership roles without imposing lifetime term limits. The specific bylaw proposals include: 

  • Proposal 20-02, Section XVI, Section 1.f., concerns an update on member-initiated proposals to amend the Bylaws by petition, which currently requires signatures from at least 25 members in good standing. Based on feedback from Leadership Assembly delegates in 2019, the Board is recommending raising this requirement to 1% of the membership or 100 members, whichever is less. This change will ensure there is a strong body of support for making the proposal and does not limit the opportunity for concerns to be raised from the membership.

  • Proposal 20-03, Article III, Section 3, addresses the timing of electing or appointing delegates to the Leadership Assembly, and asks Chapters to notify PRSA of the names and addresses of delegates by January 15 of each year. Language requiring that delegates be certified 60 days prior to the Assembly remains in the Bylaws, ensuring a streamlined process for determining eligibility to vote at the annual meeting.

  • Proposal 20-05, Articles IV and V, Sections 3.a and 3, addresses the APR requirement for Officers and Directors, and recommends that qualification language for these positions be amended to “Accreditation in Public Relations is strongly encouraged, but not required.” Internal data shows that fewer than 18% of PRSA’s more than 19,650 members hold the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), and less than half of those members with an APR self-identify as ethnic/racial minorities. The APR is an important professional credential that recognizes mastery of key knowledge, skills, and abilities in public relations. It does not, however, inform leadership capabilities or recognize skills not measured by the APR. The removal of the APR requirement for Board service in no way diminishes the importance of the credential.

  • Proposal 20-06, Article III, Section 4, concerns Leadership Assembly delegate term limits, and recommends that all delegates, except ex officio delegates, shall serve for one year or until their successors are duly elected or appointed and assume office. Delegates may serve up to three consecutive years in the same role, and may then serve again as a delegate after an absence of one year. This change would go into effect in 2022.


Two additional administrative changes are being recommended to the Bylaws, clarifying intent (updates in bold).

  • Proposal 20-01, Article V, Section 4.a., updates text to say the Chair shall be an ex officio member of all committees, except the Nominating Committee, the Board of Ethics and Professional Standards, the Universal Accreditation Board, and the Grievance Committee.

  • Proposal 20-04, Article III, Section 10, is an administrative correction to proxy representation, stating that only voting delegates may act by proxy for another voting delegate.

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ICON 2020: We are the flame

By: Julia Grimm, Otterbein University, 2020 Central Ohio PRSA Icon Scholarship Recipient 

“Go where there is no fire and be the flame” is the life motto for Adriênne Bolden, a speaker at the PRSSA ICON 2020. This is my new challenge as a public relations professional.

I think we all have wondered, “where do we go from here,” after the drama of 2020. Then again, the craze of the year hasn’t stopped yet. ICON 2020 was there to answer our questions.

At the conference, Jon Meacham said our country is the most divided in its history since the civil war. Laurie Garrett stepped us through the divisive and scary moments in our experience with COVID-19 and where we have fallen prey to lies and disinformation.

But I couldn’t help smiling when the BBC reporter’s phone kept falling down during a panel discussion and when a keynote speaker had her phone go off twice during her presentation.

This isn’t where we talk about being able to pivot and adapt. Instead, it’s time to acknowledge a new beginning for our profession and the world. 

As PR professionals, Nina Jankowicz reminded us that we are on the frontlines of calling out disinformation. 

We are also the people who can encourage real conversations in a polarized country. We can change inequity’s in our workplaces. As Candace Steele noted, we don’t have to compromise our integrity; don’t “PR” something but lead with the truth. 

Steele told us that it was okay to fail. It’s time to show the world that we can learn from our mistakes and be better professionals because of it.

The future can look scary, especially when Martin Waxman teaches us how artificial intelligence can impact the future of our profession. 

But I believe that humans must control the integrity of our profession now and in the future. 

Rob Biesenbach taught me how to tell my story instead of reciting my LinkedIn profile. What is the story I will leave behind in this profession? Is it a LinkedIn profile of awards and degrees? 

This is what I have learned at ICON 2020: I want to leave behind a legacy of integrity and a commitment to my profession of always fighting for the truth. Go be the flame.


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5 PR Tips to Keep Your Restaurant Top-of-Mind Amid the Pandemic


The restaurant industry has undoubtedly been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the consistent underlying fear of forced closures, restaurants nationwide have had to shift their business models and incorporate new health and safety measures.

As year-over-year sales remain down for many, restaurants now must focus on aligning their marketing and PR efforts to not only gain new customers, but to remain top-of-mind with existing fans. The following tips are the perfect starting point for restaurants to encourage new and returning diners to choose them when looking to order carry-out or visit a dining room.

1. Be transparent, truthful and timely.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen restaurants go under fire for lacking transparency with their customers. The best way to ensure your restaurant’s reputation is not altered during this time is to continue to be transparent and truthful and to do so in a timely manner.

Consistently sharing updates on your website, social media and with the media (if relevant) keeps guests in the know on the status of your restaurant’s hours, services and health and safety practices. In addition, each update can help keep your brand in front of consumers. 

2. Position restaurant leadership as industry thought leaders.

There’s one thing for certain during the pandemic – there’s no playbook. As restaurants across the country work to pivot their businesses, it presents an ideal opportunity to provide meaningful and insightful expertise through thought leadership opportunities. Thought leadership can help restaurants build more trust around your brand and services and make you stand out as a subject matter expert.

While being seen as a thought leader doesn’t always happen overnight, the more valuable and authentic content that you share will better help position your restaurant’s leaders as experts in the industry. To get started, pitch interview opportunities with your restaurant’s leaders to local media and industry trade outlets. However, make sure your leaders are also strong communicators and can clearly articulate their ideas and opinions. A poor interview can make the media less likely to reach out for future interviews.

3. Engage with food bloggers and influencers.

There is no doubt that many consumers have been taking to social media over the past six months as they’ve spent more time at home. Now more than ever, social media is one of the most affordable and accessible ways to connect and engage with diners. Collaborating with local bloggers and influencers is a great way to showcase menu items and specials as well as communicate your restaurant’s health and safety message. Invite them to dine at your restaurant or order carry-out and host a giveaway to not only introduce your restaurant to potential new customers, but to also gain a significant number of new followers on your restaurant’s social media platforms.

4. Pitch virtual cooking demonstrations.

2020 has become the year of virtual “firsts” for many people. Virtual happy hours, birthday parties, award ceremonies - even cooking demonstrations. Media outlets across the country have shifted their interview formats to adhere to health and safety guidelines. Just like in-person cooking demos, these media features are a great way to highlight menu items and promotions and share your restaurant’s story with consumers.

5. Keep in touch with and reward your loyal customers.

Now is the time to remember and recognize guests who have supported your business along the way. Whether it be through an exclusive tasting event, virtual cooking class or meal discount, offer something specifically for e-newsletter subscribers, app users and other loyal customers.

While the experiences may look different, there are still many ways to get your restaurant’s name and story out there and continue to engage with customers. For additional public relations and marketing tips or to learn more about how to make your restaurant stand out during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit or email us at [email protected].


Susie Dunlea is an account coordinator at Inspire PR Group, a national public relations firm that is proud to work with restaurant groups and trade associations to help communicate effectively and tell their stories.


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Update Reminders From the 2020 Universal Accreditation Board Chair

Update Reminders From the 2020 Universal Accreditation Board Chair
By: Emma Prusha


The advocation for the accreditation process is cause that is and needs to be championed widely. Here are some updates from the chair of the Universal Accreditation Board. The computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) is now offered remotely. Candidates now have the option to either sit for the Examination at a Prometric Testing Center or remotely through ProProcter. The remote exam includes protocols such as allowing ProProcter to utilize exam takers microphone and camera, as well as downloading the software to ensure integrity during the exam. Once candidates advance from their Panel Presentation, they will be offered the remote examination option. The Panel Presentation Replaces what was formerly the Readiness Review. It is often conducted virtually. The candidate Panel Presentation questionnaire now only consists of two parts instead of three. The questionnaire requires candidates to provide written answers to questions about their organization roles and their professional experience. Panel Presentation has been in use since 2017 and is used as a way to assess a candidate' s knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). In addition, Accreditation Renewal replaces what was formerly "APR Maintenance". APR Renewal utilizes Continuing Education Units (CEUs) as the unit of Accreditation Renewal, which align to reflect current standards and best practices in professional development programs.The Accreditation Renewal will allow better member tracking and an overall process improvement.  The cost of Accreditation Renewal is still $75, and it occurs every three years.

The percentage weights of KSAs was switched in 2016 to better reflect the profession. The different KSAs on the Examination for APR are important for candidates to note. 

KSAs Percentages:  

  • For Researching, Planning, Implementing and Evaluating programs (RPIE): 33%.
  • For Applying Ethics and Law: 13%.
  • For Managing Issues and Crisis Communications: 13%.
  • For Leading the PR Function: 18%.
  • For Managing Relationships: 15%.
  • For Communication Models, Theories and History of PR: 8%.

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PRSA Central Ohio Chapter received an honorable mention as part of the 2020 PRSA Chapter Diversity Awards. The committee was recognized during the PRSA's Virtual ICON in October. 

The award was based on the achievements of the chapter in the past year: 
  • Hosting programs on "Getting it Right: Writing and Communicating To, About and With the LGBTQ community," "Uncovering and Confronting Implicit Biases," and "Creating Inclusive Campaigns," "From Statements to Action to Anti-Racism: The Communicator's Role in Making the Statement a Reality"
  • Providing a comprehensive list of resources about racism to members 
  • Adding a Diversity & Inclusion category to the PRism Awards
  • Authoring articles for PRSA National and Central Ohio PRSA 
  • Adding a Diversity & Inclusion Officer position to the Board of Directors 
  • Providing implicit bias training to the Board 
  • Helping ensure diverse representation in programming 

Congratulations to committee membersShanikka Flinn (chair), Jaron Terry, APR, Fellow PRSA, Gayle Saunders, APR, Joshua Hartley, Jenese Wallace, Mackenzie Betts, Jamaal Bell, APR, and Wendy Schwantes, APR!


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Dr. Alisa Agozzino Selected as This Year’s PRSA ECD Platinum Award Recipient

Every year, PRSA’s East Central District presents the PRSA ECD Platinum/Don Durocher award to a deserving professional within the 17 chapters in six states that the district represents. This year, PRSA ECD has chosen PRSA Central Ohio’s very own Alisa Agozzino, PhD, APR, associate professor of public relations at Ohio Northern University as this year’s ECD Platinum Award recipient.

The PRSA ECD board of directors accepts nominations from around the district and then votes on a selected recipient who has achieved a distinguished service record to PRSA at the local, district and national levels.

Dr. Agozzino has provided service to the Central Ohio PRSA Chapter as a committee chair and a member of the Board of Directors. At PRSA’s national level, she serves as the chair of PRSA’s Educators Academy and as the National Faculty Advisor for PRSSA.

Congratulations to Dr. Agozzino for this highly deserved award! 

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