GV alumnae recognized with national public relations award


Zachary Kuchar

Courtesy to Mackenzie Keller // Left to Right: Delaney Mackenzie and Emily Gagnon

Mackenzie Keller, Staff Reporter

The Public Relations Society of America Foundation’s National Gold Key Award recognizes phenomenal members of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) for their incredible academic achievements and leadership in the organization. The Gold Key award is celebrated as the highest honor an individual within the organization can achieve.

Two Grand Valley State University alumnae, Emily Gagnon and Delaney MacKenzie were awarded this honor and will be celebrated at the Public Relations Society of America International Conference in October. Both women were Advertising & Public Relations majors when they attended GVSU.

Founded in the 90s, the GVSU chapter of PRSSA is a pre-professional organization preparing students for their future careers in public relations and others in the communications industry through speakers, workshops, agency tours, PRSSA national trips, and our student-run firm GrandPR. The chapter had the most award-winning year of its history last year, winning seven national awards.

In order to be eligible for this honor, PRSSA members must meet the following six qualifications:

  • Be a PRSSA member for at least two years
  • Be a senior or graduate student,
  • Have a GPA of at least 3.4 in their major,
  • Hold a PRSSA chapter or national leadership position
  • Complete at least one internship (confirmed by an advisor)
  • Affirm their intention to become a PRSSA associate member within one year of graduating. 

Both Gagnon, former CEO of GrandPR, and Delaney MacKenzie, former president of the GVSU chapter, were driving forces for their chapter. Under their leadership, GVPRSSA received three Teahan Awards, three Student Life Awards, and two Pacesetter Awards for exceptional projects, along with many others. The chapter was also named a Star Chapter for the eighth consecutive year. 

“It is an honor to receive this award, and it means so much more that Delaney and I were recognized side by side,” Gagnon said. “We were each other’s number one supporters last year and all of the programs and campaigns we implemented are proof of just how much people can accomplish with strong communication, strategy and encouragement”

Both women spoke highly of each other, sharing the credit for the work they have done to be awarded such a high honor in their group.

“I feel incredibly proud and honored to be recognized with the PRSSA Gold Key Award along with Emily.” MacKenzie said, “It wouldn’t have felt right to receive such an award individually when I owe much of my success to our collective leadership.” 

Of all the projects this duo has worked on, they are proudest of their high school outreach program. Originally, GRPRSSA was supposed to visit high schools to talk to the students about personal relations, career paths and advice about college. However, these plans were interrupted when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

As universities and high schools adapted to moving online, GVPRSSA and GrandPR members made new plans as well. They quickly pivoted to produce short YouTube videos to provide advice about entering college and to introduce the study of public relations. 

Both Gagnon and MacKenzie continue their involvement in the West Michigan PRSA chapter which serves the professional communications community. Delaney is currently a communications associate for 8THIRTYFOUR while Emily is a digital marketing specialist at LEAD Marketing Agency.

The Grand Valley Advertising and Public Relations program has given me countless opportunities to grow and prepare me for my career in this field,” MacKenzie said. “Receiving this award is proof of that.”

Only one other GVPRSSA member has been awarded the National Gold Key Award. Jaclyn Ermoyan received the award in 2017 after a tour in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps program. She worked in hurricane-torn areas of the United States and secured a role at Rock Ventures, LLC in the metro Detroit area as a public relations associate. 

These awards are not only representative of hard work from Delaney and me, but also the exceptional GVSU Advertising and Public Relations program as a whole,” Gagnon said. “I am elated to have followed the footsteps of Jaclyn Ermoyan, who was the first GVSU student to receive this award in 2017. Jaclyn has been a role model and I am thankful to have learned from her while working together to plan TEDxGVSU conferences.”

For more information about GVPRSSA and the student-run firm, GrandPR, visit their website.