Soon after crossing the commencement stage this past April, two GVPRSSA alumni have one more thing to celebrate. Former GrandPR CEO, Jesse Schmitt, and former GVPRSSA VP of Public Relations, Rebekah Banasik, are the inaugural recipients of the Kelly Rossman-McKinney Leadership Award. These two truly embody the spirit of the late Kelly Rossman-McKinney through their allyship, grit, empathy, and leadership. 

The Kelly Rossman-McKinney Leadership Award was established to honor her memory following her death in 2021. This annual recognition highlights and celebrates student leaders while encouraging them to further their professional development through PRSA. The award consists of a paid PRSA Associate National membership, chapter membership of choice, and a New Pro sectional membership. The recipients are recognized at the West Michigan PRSA PRoof Awards. 

Jesse Schmitt, KRM Leadership Award co-winner, devoted her time to the Advertising and Public Relations program while at Grand Valley. She served as the Vice President of GVPRSSA and the CEO of GrandPR during her senior year, where she previously served as a Design Associate and Creative Director. She was involved with the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America (WMPRSA), sitting on its Programming Committee for more than a year. She also held several leadership roles during the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC), hosted by the American Advertising Federation, where she worked on the creative, copywriting, and presentation teams. Additionally, she took her professional skills to multiple internships, including GVSU’s Career Center and Steelcase. Jesse will continue her PR career at the world’s largest firm, Edelman, in New York City. 

Jesse is always there to lend a helping hand. Through all of her successes, she continues to lead with empathy. She is honored to be the inaugural winner of the Kelly Rossman-McKinney Leadership award to pay tribute to her legacy. “Though I did not have the opportunity to meet Kelly Rossman-McKinney myself, I know her for her incredible reputation built with tenacity and strength,” she said when asked what the award means to her. “As someone who has had to persevere through various challenges in my college career, I am inspired by her story.” 

In the words of her business partner John Truscott, “There never has been and never will be another Kelly Rossman-McKinney. She shattered the glass ceiling for women in Lansing by taking risks – risks she understood and committed to because she knew what challenges were, and she faced them head on. Kelly’s volunteerism and her mentorship will stand the test of time. She focused on young women who were entering the public relations business. She wanted their path to be easier than hers.” 

Rebekah Banasik, fellow KRM Leadership Award co-winner, was recognized by her nominators for sharing similar traits mentioned above. One wrote, “When it arises, she approaches conflict with grace and steadiness. Just like KRM, this nominee oozes grit and resilience.” Rebekah’s attention to detail and compassion towards others makes her a strong, trustworthy leader. She truly makes PR look “easy.” 

Rebekah was a star performer and incredible leader in the GVSU Ad/PR program. During her senior year she served as the GVPRSSA VP of Public Relations and an Account Executive for GrandPR, where she previously worked as an Account Associate. She sat on the WMPRSA Professional Development Committee for over a year and maintained several internships on top of excelling in her classes in GVSU’s honors program. Most recently, she completed internships with Piper and Gold Public Relations and the GVSU Alumni Relations Office. Post-graduation, she will continue her PR career in Michigan and is feeling empowered after being recognized as an emerging leader by her peers and mentors. “Winning this award gives me the encouragement and drive to continue to make an impact on my community as I launch my career in public relations,” said Banasik.

As the nominations illustrate, Jesse and Rebekah are most deserving of this award. Their positive attitudes, empathy, and reliability has helped them to shine not only in GVPRSSA, but the GVSU Ad/PR program as a whole. I am confident that they will continue to thrive in their PR careers, and I will be cheering for them each step of the way. Congratulations, we are so proud of you both!

GVPRSSA had many members, both past and present, recognized at the 2022 PRoof Awards. Here is a list of the honorees:

​​2022 Outstanding Emerging Pro: Former GVPRSSA President (2020) and Ad/PR alum Delaney MacKenzie now at BlackTruck Media & Marketing

2022 Media Person of the Year: Ad/PR alum (2020) Edith Justo Reyes at El Vocero Hispano

Gold PRoof Award Podcast Tactic – PR Hangover (GVPRSSA)

Outstanding Student of the Year – Jesse Schmitt (GrandPR)

GVPRSSA Kelly Rossman-McKinney Leadership Award: Rebekah Banasik (GrandPR) & Jesse Schmitt (GrandPR)

PR Pro of the Year: Beth Dornan (adjunct)

On behalf of GVPRSSA, congratulations to all of the 2022 WMPRSA PRoof Award recipients!

Amberly is a senior in the advertising and public relations program with an emphasis on public relations. She also has a minor in management. She is the President of GVPRSSA and is completing internships with the GVSU Alumni Relations Office and John Ball Zoo. She spends her free time taking an excessive amount of pictures of her hamsters and binge-watching cringey reality TV.