With an eye on the vast opportunities of attending college in downtown Indianapolis, Marissa Smith’s choice to apply to IUPUI and the IUPUI Honors College was an easy one. The urban environment and the IUPUI Chancellor’s Scholars Program, which she says validated her high school academic work ethic, solidified the decision to become a Jaguar.
The senior Journalism major is on a Public Relations (PR) track with a minor in Advertising, though upon entering as a freshman, Smith wasn’t sure what degree program to pursue. Growing up as a creative writer, she had hopes of translating her creativity into a career. The The Department of Journalism and Public Relations and earned knowledge in public relations, marketing communications, and advertising have allowed her to do just that, diversifying her job skill base.
As an IUPUI Honors College scholar, Smith has built strong relationships with IUPUI faculty by completing Honors Contracts each semester. Whether it was researching the effects of social stratification, developing PR plans, or presenting on effects of music in advertisements, Honors Contracts helped her to explore journalism and PR on a deeper level, allowing her to “geek out on PR” and connect one-on-one with experts of the profession.
Smith lists two professors in particular who helped shape her experience at IUPUI–Denise Herd (President of Herd Strategies) and the recently retired Julie Vincent. She viewed the two PR professionals as strong examples of female leaders in the industry. “I was really inspired by them,” says Smith.
Outside of academics, the Honors scholar has participated in several internship programs throughout her undergraduate career, landing PR and communications internships with Indiana Futsal, HWC Engineering, Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis, Hirons, INTERNnet, and the Indiana State Museum. Smith now works as Social Media Producer for Indiana Soccer Association.
On campus, she acts as Lead Scholar for IUPUI Social Justice Education in her third year with the program. In her first year, she planned the first annual Social Justice Symposium, a one-day conference that blossomed into a statewide event. Smith also helps facilitate presentations on various social issues, designing promotional graphics, and organizing volunteer recruitment campaigns for large-scale events like Tunnel of Oppression. The PR student is also the Vice President of IUPUI’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), in which she coordinates chapter recruitment efforts and plans monthly career-development programs.
IUPUI’s rich educational and co-curricular opportunities are especially meaningful to Smith, who is part of the nearly 30% of first-generation students on campus. “I’m the only one in my immediate family to attend a four-year university, and I’m the only one living in a city like Indianapolis. It’s a big change adjusting to living here when you come from a town with one stop light, but the changes have resulted in so much growth,” says Smith.
After graduating this coming May, the Liberal Arts scholar hopes to find work either with a PR agency or a non-profit organization. Smith sees a master’s degree in her future and hopes to one day become a professor, where she’ll pass along her wisdom gained from real-world experience.
“College can be scary to approach. What you need to understand is that it is so much more than sitting in a classroom,” says Smith. “For me, it has been about a sense of community, becoming more confident in myself, and getting a deeper understanding of where my future is going. I will always advocate for people to go to college.”