2010 Archives

SMU senior wins two national awards from PRSA Foundation

Sana Merchant wins 2010 Marcia Silverman Minority Student Award and John D. Graham Scholarship Award

Sana Merchant
Sana Merchant

October 19, 2010

DALLAS (SMU) – Southern Methodist University student Sana Merchant has been named the winner of two national awards presented by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation.

The first is the 2010 Marcia Silverman Minority Student Award, a $5,000 scholarship presented to a minority senior college student who demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, leadership skills and a commitment to entering the public relations profession. The award is new this year and is funded by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.

The second award is the John D. Graham Scholarship, funded by Fleishman-Hilliard, a $3,000 award given to a college senior in a journalism or public relations program who plans to enter the PR field.

The awards were presented to Merchant on October 18 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., during the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) 2010 National Conference.

Merchant is a senior at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, majoring in corporate communications and public affairs with an emphasis in public relations. She serves as president of both the campus PRSSA chapter and the Indian Students Association. She is also a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and is a Robert Redman Foundation Scholar. In addition, she is active in the SMU Program Council and Muslim Students Association and holds a leadership position in the Delta Delta Delta sorority.

Christina Baily-Byers, APR, the PRSSA Faculty Advisor at SMU and a lecturer in public relations in the Meadows School’s Division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, said, “Sana is one of those rare students who takes your breath away with her energy and intellect.  She has one of the most intense work ethics I have seen in 16 years of teaching. She excels in her studies, maintaining a 3.56 GPA, and participates in numerous organizations while working two jobs and never missing a deadline. She set a goal to complete seven internships before graduating, and is well on her way; she’s completed terms with Edelman, Robbins Brothers, and The Dallas Morning News and is currently an intern with The Marketing Arm.”

“I come from a traditional Indian family where steering away from a medical profession is not an option,” said Merchant. “But at SMU, I discovered and fell in love with public relations, and knew that it was my calling. Through the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Division at the Meadows School, and through my experiences with PRSSA, I have found a new direction for my career. I am tremendously honored and grateful to have been chosen for these scholarships.”

In addition to the scholarship awards for Merchant, SMU’s chapter of PRSSA won a Frederick H. Teahan Award for Outstanding Professional Advisor during yesterday’s ceremony. The advisor – Gail Chandler, APR, Public Affairs Communications at Texas Instruments and a member of PRSA Dallas – has supported SMU’s chapter through mentoring, providing career advice, and initiating a community service project for the chapter. Chandler received a trophy, and the SMU PRSSA chapter received $200.

It is the fourth Teahan Award applied for, and won, by SMU’s PRSSA chapter in the past two years. After years of inactivity, SMU’s PRSSA chapter was revitalized in 2008. In fall 2009, the chapter won three Frederick H. Teahan Awards at the PRSSA National Conference in San Diego. SMU received top honors for Outstanding Chapter Development, Outstanding PRSA/PRSSA Chapter Relationship, and Outstanding Chapter Faculty Advisor, winning a total of $800 in addition to two plaques and a trophy. Entries for the Teahan awards are submitted from among the 300 PRSSA chapters at colleges and universities nationwide.


Public Relations Student Society of America is a pre-professional organization with more than 10,000 members at 299 Chapters in the United States and its first International Chapter in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Society strives to advance the profession through peer and professional networking, local and national programming, advocacy and diversity.

The student society aims to foster the following:

  • Understanding of current theories and procedures of the profession
  • Appreciation of the highest ethical ideals and principles
  • Awareness of an appropriate professional attitude
  • Appreciation of Associate Membership in PRSA and eventually accredited membership

 About the PRSA Foundation

The PRSA Foundation is an independent, 50l (c) 3 charitable foundation which enhances the role of the public relations industry in serving the public good, by raising funds to support scholarships for public relations students,  research projects that impact the practice of public relations, and public education initiatives that build greater awareness among business and government leaders about the role of public relations in serving the public good. Our role is to be a small foundation that serves as catalyst and convenor. 

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