Two students and alumnus recognized by PRSA Miami chapter

From left are Jack Miller, scholarship recipient Arianna Gonzalez, Julie Schoen, Marcia Gomez, Heidi Carr, and Nathaniel Derrenbacher. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami
By Jenny Hudak

From left are Jack Miller, scholarship recipient Arianna Gonzalez, Julie Schoen, Marcia Gomez, Heidi Carr, and Nathaniel Derrenbacher. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami

Two students and alumnus recognized by PRSA Miami chapter

By Jenny Hudak
Arianna Gonzalez and Lexi Zisselman, students from the School of Communication, and Nathaniel Derrenbacher, an alumnus of the University of Miami, were recognized during PRSA Miami’s 35th Annual Ev Clay/PRSA Miami Endowment luncheon.

Two University of Miami students and an alumnus were recognized on Friday for their scholastic achievements and contributions to the field of communications by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) at the 35th Annual PRSA Miami chapter Endowment Fund luncheon. 

Arianna Gonzalez and Lexi Zisselman, seniors studying public relations in the School of Communication, were among just eight recipients of the Ev Clay/PRSA scholarship. Gonzalez was in attendance Friday, alongside her brother, to receive the award. 

“I’m not exaggerating when I say this award has allowed me to continue my dream as a Miami Hurricane,” Gonzalez said. She went on to express gratitude for the support of her family as she begins her career.

Gonzalez, a senior from Miami, knew she wanted to pursue a career in the field of public relations before arriving at the University. She credits School of Communication faculty members Jack Miller and Heidi Carr for pushing her to excel through internship and leadership opportunities.

“They really are the ones who encouraged me to get involved with PRSA since our first meeting. It was already important to me to get involved with this organization, and I feel really fortunate to be here today,” she said.

Gonzalez now serves as president of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) at the University. She hopes to finish her studies in the spring and pursue a career in public relations in the music industry. 

Though unable to attend Friday’s event, Zisselman expressed gratitude for the honor. “I am honored to be a recipient of the 2022 EV Clay PRSA scholarship. My communications studies at the University have prepared me and continue to prepare me tremendously for my career after graduation,” she said.

The Ev Clay/PRSA Miami Chapter Endowment Fund, established in 1985 in honor of Miami public relations trailblazer Everett A. Clay, supports students embarking on their careers in the field of PR by awarding them scholarships to propel them onto their path. 

Annually, the fund presents accomplished students in South Florida with $3,400 scholarships each, for a total of $27,000. 

“From academic excellence to their community activities to work experience or their financial need, we are so lucky to honor these students here with us today,” Dana Clay, daughter of Ev Clay, said while presenting students with their scholarships.

During the program, PRSA also recognized outstanding professionals for their contributions to the field of communication. 

Nathaniel Derrenbacher, who graduated from the University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science, was the recipient of the 2022 Communicator to Watch award. The accolade is presented to a young communications professional in South Florida who has made an extraordinary contribution to their organization, community, and profession through their work.

Derrenbacher, who serves as the lead of corporate and incident communications at Royal Caribbean Group, credits much of his success to the foundation laid during his time as a student in the University. During his remarks, the first person he thanked was Heidi Carr. 

“Heidi Carr is a door opener,” he said. “Making relationships with faculty members and students while I was [at the University] fostered my curiosity, made me ask a lot of questions, and made me want to learn more about what this field and career could be.” 

In addition, Connie Crowther was honored as the recipient of the 2022 Bill Adams Lifetime Achievement Award. Crowther served as the assistant vice president for public relations at Florida International University for more than 15 years and now works as the owner and president of Crowther & Co., where she has provided communications services to clients for more than 25 years. 

Daniella Levine Cava, mayor of Miami-Dade County, was recognized as the 2022 Royal Palm Award honoree for her impact on the Miami-Dade County community as someone who embodies and demonstrates key values of the public relation profession.