Learning About Myself While Learning PR: Kia Vang

Kia Vang has fully embraced the #HuskyExperience during her time at the University of Washington. As a future Public Relations maven, Kia knows the value of forming connections and maintaining relationships wherever she goes, whether it’s Los Angeles, Rome, or Seattle.

Why did you become a Communication major?

“Coming to UW, I knew that I had a talent for event planning, making connections, and maintaining relationships with others. I also knew that I wanted to go into the entertainment media or fashion industry, so I looked for a program that would support my interest in public relations. However, what I found was that the Department is a place where all realms of communication come together and intertwine with one other. Whether it’s public speaking, ethnography, or theory, it’s all ultimately about making connections with people and curating ideas. I think one of the challenges facing this department is that we do not offer too many courses tailored specifically toward Public Relations, but that’s where joining the UW chapter of PRSSA has been really helpful. It’s given me the chance to attend workshops, meet mentors within the industry, and learn more about what I want to do after graduation.”

What have been some of your favorite experiences as President of UW PRSSA?

“My time as President has been extremely rewarding and honorable, although stressful at times. My biggest goal this year was to maintain relationships between people within the chapter. What I found was that sometimes people overlook these internal connections, though they’ve been really successful at connecting with outside mentors; it’s not great when you go to meetings often and realize you don’t know the name of the person sitting next to you. My leadership team and I really try to encourage people to make new friends at meetings. This way, you have a built-in support system and can make an effort to hold each other accountable for participating within the group. Serving as President has also helped me grow my own skills as an event planner and PR professional. I have a great team that helps me stay organized and keep the club sustainable. Finally, it is so rewarding to know that I have now become a resource for other people.  I love being able to answer student questions about PR and make connections between industry mentors and our members.”

What did you learn on your Career Exploration Trip to Los Angeles that you couldn’t in a classroom?

“Having traveled now through the Department a few times, I’ve discovered that you learn more about yourself when you go on trips to other places. What was great about Career Exploration is that we visited a ton companies including the Los Angeles Times, Fox studios, and media agencies that do work with film festivals like Sundance. Being able to have that experience allowed me to envision myself in this field, and our hosts gave us information on how to get started in the Los Angeles industry. It was also a great opportunity to bond with other Communication students and help guide each other during the ends of our collegiate career. During that trip I learned how I could be successful in Los Angeles and was able to gain great contacts if I end up there. Since then, I was able to rediscover my strengths as a communicator and was able to explore options I don’t think I would have explored on my own. “

What did you most enjoy about studying in Rome (Winter 2015)?

“It was an absolute life-changing experience. What was most beneficial was that I was studying material that really mattered to me. For instance, I took an ethnography class, which was a unique way to be fully immersed in a culture that was different from my own. Being able to silently observe local Italians around me at historical spots in Rome for “homework” made class so much more fun! Plus, studying abroad was the first time I had also ever been out of the country, and it taught me some practical life skills: how to budget for international travel, learning how to live with and adapt to different personalities, and how to manage my coursework so that I could relax and enjoy my time around Europe. I was able to discover a lot of new places, people, and hidden gems of knowledge.”

What’s one thing that’s surprised you about your time at UW?

“My freshman year was challenging, because I had trouble finding myself in the vastness of UW. For the first quarter, at least, I wondered if UW was too ‘big’ of a school for me. Overcoming these doubts, I pushed myself to get more involved in campus life by exploring Student Run Organizations like UW PRSSA and other music and fashion-related organizations. As I got into my major and explored more, I got more active within the Communications department and realized that UW really was the best fit for me; I don’t think I would have had the same opportunities at a smaller school. Overall, I’m glad I listened to my gut and stuck with UW.”

What’s one piece of advice your mentors have given you?

“I think a lot people overlook the importance of maintaining relationships with Department faculty and the UW Commons advising staff; there are so many Department resources that are available to students if they would only ask.  I found that once you make those personal connections, it makes it easier to do what you really want to do. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or ask for feedback and guidance.”

What’s next for you?

“I will be graduating in Spring. Although I am hoping to have a job before then (so I’m not totally stressed), if I don’t have any offers right away, I am confident that I will end up somewhere great. This is probably the most stressful time for seniors; I know what I want, but I’m also trying to keep an open mind about having to move around the country or exploring other areas to start my career. Whatever happens, I know I want to end up doing in-house PR for a lifestyle/consumer company. I want to remain a resource for others, even after graduating, because I know we all have those moments where we are going through a tough time and not sure what to do next and need some advice.”

Know someone worth howling about? To nominate an undergraduate student for a “Hello Huskies” profile, email Megan Jeffrey, Department Communications Specialist