Meet our Alumni: Emily Abrahams, Class of 2009

by Antoinette Sarpong

As a 2009 graduate of Centennial’s corporate communications and PR (CCPR) program, Emily Abrahams considers herself lucky to have landed a job during one of Canada’s worst recessions.

“I can’t believe I have a job…and a good job,” said Abrahams, when asked how she felt after her Centennial field placement at PR agency Environics turned into a two-year full-time position.  Abrahams joined Environics’ corporate and financial team, working on things that were a “little less sexy,” but nevertheless interesting, like MasterCard. “You can really get into a client and the value they bring,” said Abrahams, who now works in-house as a PR specialist at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). “Now,” said Abrahams, “I think I will probably never leave this side of (communications). It’s interesting and relevant to the public. I can’t picture myself doing anything else. I’m never bored. I get to do interesting things, and work with interesting people. There is no better feeling than reading something in the Globe and Mail and knowing that you got it there.”

How did a graduate of Western University’s media, information and technoculture program, who hasn’t taken a math class since grade 11, end up working in corporate and financial communications?

Like many communicators, Abrahams’ love of writing made her consider journalism. Abrahams reconsidered because of the lack of job prospects in the area she wanted to focus on—sports journalism. She then considered law school. That is, until someone suggested PR.

“I looked into it, and realized that I could get everything I liked about journalism and law, in PR,” said Abrahams. “I liked strategic thinking. I liked writing a lot. I liked working with people. I thought that those are areas that I could touch on in PR and get a lot more variety in than with law or journalism.”

With that decision made, Abrahams made another life-changing one. She enrolled in Centennial’s CCPR program. “I knew from the second day of school that I made the right decision,” said Abrahams. “I knew for sure I wasn’t going to law school and I was going to take a crack at this PR thing.”

Abrahams chose Centennial for “many practical considerations,” like its guaranteed internship program and its social media and design courses. Centennial’s central location and ties to a Canadian TV classic were also an incentive. “I loved the campus,” said Abrahams. “I was a big Degrassi fan growing up so the idea of going to school at Degrassi High was awesome. Abrahams also credits her time at Centennial for jumpstarting her career.

“My year at Centennial was one of the best years of my life. It was better than all my university years combined. I loved the people I went to school with,” said Abrahams, who met her best friend at Centennial and is attending her fourth Centennial wedding this fall.

“I learned so much. I really felt that I was getting skills that would help me get a job.”

Meet our Alumni: Tori Gass, Class of 2010

by Sarah DiGirolmo

For Tori Gass, the choice to enroll back in school after several years in the workforce wasn’t easy, but the experience and decision to do so was worth it. With a degree in journalism from Ryerson University, Tori was working in broadcast journalism, as a reporter for Global News in Halifax. Tori decided to expand her career horizon by entering into the corporate communications and public relations program at Centennial College. The program paved the way for her new career in the realm of communications. “Centennial prepared me to step into the communications industry armed with the skills required to succeed.”

While attending Centennial, Tori had the opportunity to intern at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Her time spent at the government agency under the Ministry of Labour provided her with valuable work experience handling a variety of complex subject matters.

Tori’s hard work and enthusiasm proved to be successful, she currently works as the Senior Public Relations Advisor for Cancer Care Ontario. In this role under the Ministry of Health and of Long-Term Care, Tori is responsible for issues management, handling media inquiries and developing proactive public relations campaigns.

Tori credits her achievements to her post-graduate education from Centennial College. The CC&PR program was designed to mimic real world situations and the expertise from instructors actively working within the PR industry opened up the doors for a prosperous career in communications. “Centennial is a great school that will prepare you for the real world,” she says, “It was definitely the right choice for me.”

Meet our Alumni: Lisa Nethercott, Class of 2010

by Juanita Onochie

Lisa Nethercott has a passion for not-for-profit organizations and had worked in the industry for over 10 years in development and funding. Part of her job entails managing writers and designers, which she loves because it provides an opportunity to watch people use their creative skills in their profession. At some point, a colleague complimented Nethercott on her strong writing skills and advised her that she should consider taking corporate communications and public relations.

That advice, along with a little research and several conversations with people she knew who’d gone through the corporate communications and public relations program, led her to the steps of Centennial College. “I went back to school at 37 and it was the best decision I ever made.” Moving forward with the program, Nethercott knew exactly what she wanted to get out of it. Her heart was still committed to not-for-profit organizations. “I just loved kids and healthcare!”

Determined to fulfill her passion, Nethercott got her internship at The Hospital for Sick Children with the internal communications and public relations team and loved it! “I learned so much and had the opportunity to train under some brilliant talent.” From there, Nethercott moved on to Ronald McDonald House Toronto to cover a one year maternity leave as a Communications Officer.

Upon leaving Ronald McDonald House, she got the opportunity to work for two years as the Manager of Marketing and Communications at the Canadian Office of Children’s Miracle Network. Today, Nethercott believes she’s landed in what she calls her “forever after home” at Camp Oochigeas, where she works as the Communications Officer. She attributes the success and experience gained so far to everything she picked up during the CCPR program. The program created “A fabulous opportunity to put my head knowledge into practical application.” She offers this advice to those studying PR: Dream big! Decide what you want to do and pursue it with passion. Be professional and kind in every situation as relationships are the foundation of success.”


Meet our Alumni: Andrew Miller, Class of 2011

by Antoinette Sarpong

If Andrew Miller could give future communications students one piece of advice when it comes to shaping their careers, it would be this: “Try not to limit yourself in terms of what you apply for. You never know what opportunities will present themselves once you’ve started working on something.”

The 2011 corporate communications and PR (CCPR) grad speaks from experience. After completing the in-class portion of Centennial’s CCPR program, Miller, who originally wanted to get into sports communications, did his field placement in the communications branch of the Ministry of Transportation (MTO). He continues to work at MTO full-time on a team working on the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.

“I didn’t have much interest in transportation when I went to MTO,” said Miller. “It was the first (field placement) I interviewed for. The vibe was really good with the managers who interviewed me and I just thought government would be a good opportunity to get my feet wet and actually jump right in and do a lot of work.” Miller loves his job and credits Centennial’s guaranteed field placement as his “foot in the door” to a communications career. “I kind of found my way into sports anyway,” laughs Miller. “(The field placement) was definitely my start at MTO and pretty much the reason why I got my job.”

After graduating with a degree in history from Queen’s University, Miller completed a one-year ESL teaching gig in Korea. He pursued PR after some career soul searching. Miller figured out a communications job would let him work on projects that he was really passionate about and write and plan strategically.

Miller considered several GTA-based PR programs, but chose Centennial for much the same reason he eventually chose his internship. “I just got a really good vibe from the school,” said Miller. “I felt it would be a place I could fit in, feel relaxed and do a lot of work. Also, (the campus) was close to me and the program was very career-focused. You know when you get a sense that a place is for you. I felt that with Centennial.”

Miller also learnt skills across the board that made him workplace ready upon graduation. “The writing courses in both semesters were great and by far, the most important. When you work in comms, you are going to be writing 90 per cent of the time,” said Miller. “I came out of my undergrad with an arts degree, knowing how to write for academia. Of course, that writing style isn’t really what you want in the real world. You take (Centennial’s writing) course and it’s kind of a wake-up call,” said Miller, who still keeps in touch with a few of his 2011 classmates.

“It’s interesting to see where everyone ends up because there are so many career directions. The goal of this program is to get a job.”

Centennial sweeps student awards at CPRS Toronto for second year in a row

Centennial students won big at the annual CPRS Toronto ACE Awards, sweeping the Student Campaign of the Year category and winning CPRS Toronto Student of the Year, both for the second year in a row.

Amanda Paterson, CPRS Torotno Student of the Year

Amanda Paterson, CPRS Torotno Student of the Year

Amanda Paterson from the Class of 2014 won Student of the Year.  Not only did a Centennial student win in 2013, but it was the third time in four years a CC&PR student received the honour.  Amanda joins her colleague Megan Henry who recently was named IABC Toronto Student of the Year as among the top PR students in the GTA.

In the Student Campaign of the Year category, Centennial students won two Gold ACE Awards and one Bronze.  Gold went to “#CANit2013” – a special event held in support of Dixon Hall.  “Spotlight: Horizons” won the other Gold for an event that supported Horizons for Youth.  Both projects greatly exceeded their set objectives in fundraising and awareness, and received rave reviews from their respective charities and attendees.  Completing the award sweep was “Phony Party” — an event for Kids Help Phone that won a Bronze ACE Award.

The three ACE awards join a previously announced international Gold Quill Award awarded to Centennial College’s The Big Race, a collaboration project between students in the Corporate Communications & Public Relations and Broadcasting & Film programs at the Story Arts Centre.

The awards reflect the outstanding quality of Centennial’s Corporate Communications & Public Relations program, which is also reflected in the recent Key Performance Indicators released by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges & University.  Centennial scored well above the average for comparable post-graduate public relations program in Ontario, including Overall Program Quality (96% for Centennial CC&PR vs. 70% average for post-grad programs), Writing Skills (88% vs. 71%), Teacher’s Presentation of Material (84% vs. 60%), Quality of Field Placements (80% vs 57%) and Overall College Experience (92% vs 69%).


Ready, Aim, HIRE! Centennial collaboration project focuses on youth unemployment

By Donna Lindell, Professor, Corporate Communications & Public Relations and Project Fusion Faculty Advisor

Ready, Aim, HIRE! is the latest initiative as part of Centennial’s School of Communications, Media & Design’s collaboration initiative, Project Fusion.  Created in September 2012, Project Fusion is an organized answer for students at the Story Arts Centre wanting and looking for opportunities to collaborate with one another.

The recently rebranded Story Arts Centre (previously the Centre for Creative Communications) in the heart of Riverdale in Toronto houses many of the creative disciplines that excel in story telling: film, journalism, public relations, advertising, children’s entertainment, book and magazine publishing, fine arts, graphic arts, interactive digital media, game arts and design.

Some of the 2014 Project Fusion Team

Some of the 2014 Project Fusion Team

Many of the students will be collaborating and working together once working in their chosen profession, so why not start now, building their networks and creating a real campaign to add to their professional portfolio?

At the beginning of their school year, students collectively decided to take on the issue of youth employment, particularly among youth facing multiple barriers. This topic, near and dear to their own hearts and experiences, once again aligned them with the GTA CivicAction Alliance, who mentored the group last year when they added the student voice to the important transit conversations happening around the region.  The result was The Big Race.

Compared to transit, taking on youth employment is a little like trying to solve world peace. It’s a big issue and one that cannot be solved with a clever multimedia public relations awareness campaign orchestrated by fewer than 50 students.

But it’s a start. And it’s an important voice to have in the conversation. The campaign is designed by youth, for youth, and their perspective and passion give both value and credibility to the issue.

“You’re not trying to solve world peace,” was a frequent reminder at planning meetings. “You’re trying to appeal to hearts and minds, get people talking, thinking and understanding the issues at hand better than they did without the campaign.”

Now that’s an AIM these students are READY to take on.

To see what the students have created collaboratively, check out Submit your first job story! Watch for upcoming video posts filmed and edited by film and broadcast students at the Story Arts Centre. On June 4, come out to an important discussion on the issue at a Town Hall hosted by Project Fusion at the Story Arts Centre, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Congratulations Megan Henry, IABC Toronto “Student of the Year”

MeganHenryIABCCentennial College student Megan Henry is the IABC Toronto Student of the Year for 2014. Megan is a student in the post-graduate Corporate Communications & Public Relations program at Centennial’s Story Arts Centre.  She will graduate this June.

In announcing the award, IABC Toronto cited Megan’s “strong initiative and drive to make an impact in the communications industry and in the greater community.”  The Student of the Year award will be presented at the IABC Toronto OVATION Gala on May 22, 2014.

The entire Centennial College community would like to congratulation Megan on this prestigous award.




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