Q &A with Melinda Rios – Winner of the PRSA Boston PR Ethics Essay Challenge

Q &A with Melinda Rios – Winner of the PRSA Boston PR Ethics Essay Challenge
November 28, 2018 Kelly McFalls

Melinda is the Administrative Assistant for Advancement at Stonehill College in Easton,
MA. She has her BA from Wellesley College and is currently enrolled part-time in the
Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) Master’s Program at Stonehill College.

You can read her winning essay here.

Melinda will be honored for her achievement at our Annual Meeting on December 4 th at
District Hall (75 Northern Ave., Boston). This is a must-attend event where we will be electing
the 2019 Board of Directors, including the 2019 PRSA Boston President, Dan Dent, APR. We
will also honor PR Great Nancy Sterling with the Diane Davis Beacon Award and have a
“fireside chat” with Boston Celtics’ SVP of Communication Christian Megliola. This is a
great opportunity to be more involved and network with PR’s best in the field.

Get your tickets today!

1) Why is the topic of ethics an important subject to you?
Knowing right from wrong helps to establish trust in relationships, provided the intent is also
ethical and sincere. It doesn’t matter whether these relationships are professional, personal,
familial or communal, acting with integrity, honor, fairness and decency are qualities that one
should always aspire to. However, when your reputation is at stake or your loyalty to others is
questioned, choosing the right path is not always easy to do. The topic of ethics is important to
me because negative consequences and regret inevitably follow when you make the wrong
decision – and these can, at times, be irreversible. An ethical dilemma is one where the right and
wrong path is not always clear-cut or obvious. It is therefore necessary to examine your intent,
weigh consequences, and sometimes even enlist the support of others when attempting to make a
good decision. If I can avoid making a bad decision, I know that I will sleep better at night!

2) Can you think of a time when you struggled with an ethical issue? 
As an undergraduate student at another college, I was selected for a fellowship that required me
to do a research project with a faculty ad visor. The faculty adviser questioned the fellowship
selection process and wanted to meet with a member of the fellowship committee prior to being
amenable to advising or assisting me. At the time, I remember that this made me feel insecure
about being selected by the fellowship committee. I felt frustrated by the faculty adviser’s
questioning my qualifications, but I also knew that these concerns were valid as this professor
was being asked to assist me without having a say in the fellowship selection process. Despite
my insecurity and frustration toward the faculty member whom I wanted to be my adviser, it was
necessary for me to establish this professor’s trust and respect if I were to succeed in
accomplishing my research. I needed to remain humble as I continued to ask for assistance, even
though I felt uncomfortable and honestly just wanted to sever the relationship. I would not have
succeeded in my research if I had burned a bridge with my faculty adviser early in the process.
By the end of the research project, I had earned my faculty adviser’s respect, albeit slowly and
more gradually than if circumstances had been different. I also realized the debt of gratitude that

I owed to my faculty adviser for taking the time to assist my efforts and guide my research,
despite their initial reservations and disbelief in my ability.

3) What made you decide to go back to school to attain your master’s degree in IMC? 
It was an easy decision. I am a life-long learner! I am excited to challenge myself intellectually.
There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than putting your heart and soul into your work
and getting an A grade on an assignment. The Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)
graduate degree program at Stonehill College not only helps me to further my education, but also
provides the opportunity for me to be more attractive to potential employers. This education can
help me advance professionally because I am acquiring a creative toolkit of best practices and
strategies for use in the marketing and communications industry. I love the IMC program,
including the high standard of academic excellence and rigor, the professional affiliation with the
AACSB International accreditation, and the dedicated and committed faculty and staff. If it were
not for this program, I wouldn’t have heard about the PRSA Ethics Essay Challenge as my
professor, Dr. Kirsten Whitten, told us about it in class and posted it to the Blackboard course. I
am grateful of Dr. Whitten for not only exposing me to this opportunity, but for guiding me to
being more involved as a member of PRSA Boston. Winning this essay contest is a testament to
the strength of the IMC program and further supports what I said earlier, that seeking advice and
enlisting the support of others is essential to becoming an ethical, responsible and successful
person. In fact, it’s not only my professors who challenge me to be more involved, but my
classmates and fellow cohort of professional students in the IMC program also challenge me
intellectually and encourage me to contribute my unique perspectives and experiences in
classroom and group projects. I am honored to be part of the first inaugural IMC class at
Stonehill College.

4) What’s it like to be an adult going back to school? 
It is difficult to achieve a work-life balance. I work full-time and attend the IMC program part-
time by taking two courses per semester at night and on Saturdays. Juggling everything,
including family responsibilities, such as providing for my family and spending time with my
daughter and her dad, as well as maintaining friendships, attending classes and finding time to
study and write papers, is challenging, but extremely rewarding. I prefer to be busy and
purposeful. Although not easy, I find that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to,
provided you have the necessary resources and a community of supporters and advocates in your
corner. Leaning on others and asking for help is essential to maintaining a healthy perspective.
When I graduate from the IMC program, my accomplishment will be in large part due to the
support I have received from others, including my network of family, friends, professors,
advisers and peers.

5) If you had a million dollars to create a PR campaign for any company or cause of your
choice, what would you take on?
I would start a non-profit organization to help women who have been incarcerated and want to
transform their lives and get a fresh start. People deserve a second chance, if they are committed
to helping themselves and have learned from the negative consequences of their actions. An
education is the first step in the journey toward transformation. Many women who have been
incarcerated were not fortunate enough to have received a quality education due to circumstances beyond their control – be it financial, emotional or geographical. Many women have also lacked
the proper family and community support. Women desiring a second chance would benefit from
health and social services in addition to vocational training, education and financial resources.
Ethics is not just about choosing to do the right thing, but it is also about doing the right thing
even after you make a mistake by taking the proper corrective action. The Stonehill College
mission statement asserts that it is, “a Catholic institution of higher learning founded by the
Congregation of Holy Cross and is a community of scholarship and faith, anchored by a belief in
the inherent dignity of each person.” I live and appreciate this mission. I believe that this
includes those who have not always made the right choices in life because they, too, deserve to
be respected and given opportunities and support to contribute to society in purposeful and
exceptional ways.

1 Comment

  1. Frank 6 years ago

    Melinda, I will be honest with you after I read this. Though you took the moral ground, you “torpedoed” your account manager boss and threw a problem at the big cheese with “I would also ask the owner what he or she thought would be the best course of action to take with reference to approaching the client.” Big cheeses hate problems and usually shoot the messenger. You do this and you are out the door.

    A better solution would be to suggest that you and your boss have some frequent meetings with the client under the pretense of “open communication” but really to butter up the client to increase the fees for the contract. Second, you need a “fall guy” for over promises and, without getting into the detail, it should be some flunky in the client organization — as Hillary would say a “deplorable”. And if nobody chokes on the pizza dough, you can all buy some bubbly and sleep soundly.

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