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Patricia Bernardo

Niagara Health System
Graduate of Public Relations (2020)

Current role

My current role is communications assistant at Niagara Health System. Prior to completing the PR program at Niagara College, I graduated from Brock University with an Honours Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management. 

I worked at Brock University as a recruitment coordinator for the Goodman School of Business, and then Niagara College as a community outreach supervisor within the Student Recruitment office.

Influence and inspiration

After working in post-secondary student recruitment for several years, I felt it was time to try a different path when my last job contract ended. I reflected on the parts of my career that I’ve enjoyed and realized that communications and event planning came top-of-mind. When I researched career paths that fit, Public Relations seemed to be the best match for what I was looking for. I looked into a few PR programs and ultimately chose NC because of their experiential learning environment, which I knew would be a great fit for me.

Path to career

The PR program at NC fully prepared me for a career in the PR/Communications field. Our program coordinator, Emily McInerney, always shared job and volunteer opportunities with us. I was able to secure a role as communications assistant in the Corporate Communications Department at NC, which helped me enhance my writing skills and gain experience in media relations. 

Since many of our professors still work in the field, we gained knowledge of current practices and got a sense of what is happening in the industry today. All of the guest speakers in our classes were also very helpful in giving us insight into PR in a wide variety of industries (i.e. non-profit, retail, government, PR agency, etc.) and helped us expand our network. 

When I started the program, I wasn’t sure what industry or branch of PR I wanted to follow, but my professors were always there to help guide me and introduce me to different areas. The connections they helped me make played a big role in shaping the beginning of my career in PR.

Standout NC experience

One of the standout experiential learning opportunities I participated in was the Gift of Communications event organized by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) in partnership with United Way Niagara. The event was held on-campus and brought in four non-profit organizations in the region who needed help with a communications problem. Eight PR students participated in the event and, in pairs, were assigned one of the four non-profit agencies. My partner and I worked with March of Dimes to help them build a communications strategy around one of their charity initiatives. There was also an IABC member and PR professional on our team to offer guidance and support. This event was a great way for us to apply our PR knowledge and skills to help a real-world organization. It challenged us to use our problem solving and communications skills to build a plan in a limited amount of time (three hours). It was a great learning experience that also giving us the opportunity to give back to the community.

Words of wisdom

The advice that I would give to a prospective student, whether they’re in high school or looking for a new career path, is to really take the time to do some self-reflection to learn what you enjoy doing, the courses or topics you enjoy learning about, and what skills you excel in. Once you have an idea of the things you enjoy doing, research careers that match that skill set and then find programs that will help you get there.  

When I realized that I enjoyed writing, communications and event planning, the PR program was the best fit and enrolling in the program was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

The combination of the curriculum, hands-on learning and connections/network that I gained through the program helped prepare me to enter the industry.