The Word

about Centennial’s Corporate Communications + PR program

Don’t have a cow. Have a sense of humour.

Posted by bwaite on January 7, 2009

Grad,Class of 2002

Olivia Yu, Class of 2002

by Brittney Ashley

Olivia Yu never thought sourcing a cow for an event would be part of her career in corporate communications.  But she says being able to laugh and have fun is essential to success in her field.   “You get called in to do a lot of crazy things,” said Yu, a graduate of Centennial’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program.

Yu needed a cow to roam a life-size roulette board for a 4H club fundraiser.  “We were selling tickets like a 50/50 lottery.  Wherever the cow went, that was the winning number,” said Yu, a consultant at Environics Communications in Toronto.

Yu’s sense of humour has taken her far since graduating from Centennial in 2002.  From her internship at Direct Energy, to the financial services team at Environics, Yu depends on the skills and advice she received at Centennial.

“I think the biggest thing I took from Centennial is network, network, network.  Every single job I’ve had has been from networking.  I didn’t believe it as a student.  But, seriously, you have to do it,” says Yu.

Yu made important contacts as a volunteer on the Canadian Public Relations Society student committee.  Volunteering, which is stressed at Centennial, can also help budding public relations professionals gain valuable skills.

“Volunteering counts because people want to know, ‘What have you done?’  And,  if you respond, ‘I’ve been a student,’ that’s the wrong answer because you could always volunteer,” said Yu.

Charities are happy to let students gain experience writing news releases, a skill Yu uses all the time.

She credits Centennial with her knowledge of other useful skills, such as graphic and web design. “Just knowing terminology, like what a pixel is, puts you on better footing with suppliers.  You can talk on the same wavelength.  You know what you’re asking for,” says Yu.

Pixels and HTML may seem foreign to some, but Yu says it is crucial to remain open-minded in the corporate communications field.

Yu never thought she would like working at a PR agency.  But she began craving a fast-paced environment.  “So I went to an agency and I thought, ‘This is kind of cool,’” said Yu.  “Don’t shoot down opportunities that you think are so not you, because you never know what you’ll like until you try.”


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Grad feels she made the right choice

Posted by bwaite on December 18, 2008

by Mackenzie Keller, Class of 2009

Avril Henry did not initially see herself working in public relations, but after more than 10 years in the field, she is certain she made the right career choice.

scottmissionHenry, the Director of Public Relations at the Scott Mission, began her post-secondary education in a college journalism program, but decided quickly that journalism was not for her.  “I realized I wanted to do more than just writing,” she says.  So, with a love for writing, as well as variety, she decided to enrol in Centennial’s Corporate Communications program.

Since graduating in 1997, Henry has done exactly what she hoped to do – work on many different types of projects in a wide range of sectors.  For the last three-and-a-half years she’s worked in PR for the Scott Mission, a not-for-profit organization, after working in other sectors such as PR agencies and health care

She “sort of fell into” working for a not-for-profit and ended up really enjoying it.  “The not-for-profit sector is well-rounded and exposes you to a lot more than a lot of for-profit companies.  Because they’re often so small, you get to develop your skills and experience so much more,” she says.

Her work during a typical day at the Scott Mission is very diverse.  “I do everything from writing ad copy, writing press releases, pitching features and doing donor communications, to interviewing people about how the Scott Mission has helped them,”

This grad attributes much of her success and ability to be flexible in her career to the training she received at Centennial.  “It’s a well-rounded program that provides a really good foundation … the skills are interchangeable and the fundamentals never change,” she says.

While working in public relations was not her initial career goal, Avril Henry is very happy with her decision to study public relations.  “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.

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Successful internship led to fulltime work

Posted by bwaite on December 1, 2008

Grad Colleen Uncao

Grad Colleen Uncao

by Jo Nicholson, Class of 2009

Colleen Uncao graduated from Centennial College’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program in 2005. She would not be where she is today without the program’s eight-week Field Placement course that she describes as an “attractive feature that allows you to gain hands-on experience.”

Uncao hasn’t looked back since her field placement completed at Maverick PR, an independent, mid-size agency located in the Annex area of Toronto. When she finished the placement, she was offered a full-time position as an account coordinator—exactly what many students dream of.

She is now a consultant on the consumer team and works on behalf of notable clients such as Balmshell, Miele and Evian.

Although she is very happy with her career’s progress, Uncao admitted she was hesitant to work at a PR agency during her Centennial days. “During our classes, we networked with different people who worked at agencies,” she said.  “It sounded like they were glued to their desks and working crazy hours. I was definitely worried.”

Uncao was encouraged to apply for the Field Placement at Maverick PR. She now knows that the experiences she gained were invaluable. “At bigger agencies, you’re just doing media monitoring and administrative duties,” she said. “At Maverick, with about 30 employees,  interns have more guidance and do many different things.”

For example, she compiled media lists and scored a media hit only two weeks into her internship. She attributes her past, and present, successes to the skills she learned at Centennial, such as learning to write for the media and presentation skills.

Writing and presenting remain instrumental parts of her career today. “I still use inverted pyramid style when I write press releases,” she said. “The presentation skills really helped me gain confidence talking to people and pitching to clients,” she said.

Uncao originally intended to pursue a career at a corporation and feels like a mid-size agency is a great choice for an internship. Why? “If you’ve start out in a corporate atmosphere, it’s difficult to go from that to an agency,” she said. “You’re used to having that buzz around you. It’s manageable but a little chaotic at times.”

Being busy at a PR agency is a perfect fit for Uncao. She continues to thrive at Maverick and enjoys a variety of projects. “I always feel like I’m learning a lot,” she said.

Her advice for students in the program: “Being scared isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means you’re being challenged.”

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Publicity manager enjoys Random House

Posted by bwaite on November 24, 2008

Grad Frances Bedford

Grad Frances Bedford

By Kara Hendriksen, Class of 2009

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”  Frances Bedford, Publicity Manager at Random House of Canada, uses this mantra every day, whether she’s trying to convince John Grisham to tour, or get the media to attend a book signing.  But Bedford hasn’t always had this much confidence.

When she graduated from the University of Toronto in 1998 with a degree in English and drama, Bedford felt like she didn’t have any marketable skills. That’s why when she found out about  the Corporate Communications program at Centennial it immediately appealed to her.

“Centennial College is really good at focusing you and getting you to look forward,” Bedford explains, “The program gave me a lot of confidence and direction.”

After interning with RBC in 2000, Bedford went on to work for the Harbourfront Centre’s literary program, becoming Senior Publicist after only two months. “I was confident, fresh and optimistic,” she says, “I had all the skills and I could do the job.” Her impressive performance and motivated attitude resulted in her being sought out for her next job.

For the past five years, she’s worked as a Publicity Manager for Random House Publishing Canada.  Her job includes lots of media release writing and e-mail communications. However, her favourite part of the job is getting out and interacting with people at book launches, festivals, and even TV show tapings. Recently, Bedford escorted Elizabeth Baird, the author of The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book, to a taping of Steven and Chris at CBC.  She was there to make the author comfortable, answer questions, and help with any other tasks that needed to be done.

Bedford insists that because of the wide range of careers in communications, graduates should never have to settle on an employer that doesn’t have the same interests as them or organizations that don’t see the value of well executed communications.

”Whatever your passion is, you can do it.  A career in communications allows you to take your skills and interests and apply them.” She adds that if a company doesn’t value communications, it’s impossible to change them. “You really have to know your own value. Find a company that values communications.”

She leaves new communicators with the same piece of advice that she follows herself: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” It’s your career to negotiate, after all.

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Government communications ideal for this grad

Posted by bwaite on November 24, 2008

By Jessica Wolfraim, Class of 2009

Grad Murray Gaudreau

Grad Murray Gaudreau

When Murray Gaudreau began Centennial College’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program in January 2002, he was uncertain about his communications skills and abilities.  However, Centennial’s program quickly changed that.

For Gaudreau, an issues co-ordinator for the Ontario Ministry of Education and Chatham-Kent-Essex’s New Democratic Party leader, the program provided him with a sense of confidence — the basis of his successful communications career.  “Centennial helped me figure out that I am good at what I do,” he recalls.  “After graduation you are able to go into the job and know you have the skills to succeed.”

But this PR practitioner ultimately credits Centennial’s qualified and experienced instructors for teaching him the fundamentals.  “The faculty really gives you the inside knowledge that you need.  They provide the basics plus a lot of tips and guidance.  And they show you how to become a contributing member of the team.”

While Gaudreau gained a great deal of experience from the program, his Field Placement proved to be the most beneficial.  During the midpoint of his internship with the Ontario Ministry of Education’s public affairs unit, the ministry offered him a full-time contract position.

Today, six years later, he works as an issues co-ordinator for the media relations unit.  His position involves establishing issues management plans and crafting key messages for the Ministry of Education.

The lessons from Centennial’s nine-month communications and public relations program also became highly advantageous for Gaudreau during his October 2007 political campaign for MPP in his hometown riding in Chatham-Kent-Essex, Ont.  In fact, the skills he acquired at Centennial were a great help to his campaign.  “The Presentation Skills course was particularly good… it gave me a formalized approach to writing speeches.”

So what does this PR practitioner recommend to those interested in a communications career within the government?  “Be committed to what you do by giving 100 per cent all the time,” he says.  But Gaudreau’s best advice is even more insightful.  “Life is a team sport and it takes a lot of people to make a product a success, so welcome the advice and suggestions of others.

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Grad finds love for event management

Posted by bwaite on November 21, 2008

By Jen Burkholder, Class of ‘09

Grad Meg Sweeney

Grad Meg Sweeney

“High touch” – two words Meg Sweeney uses to describe Centennial’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program.


Sweeney, a graduate of the class of 2006, attributes much of her success in the field of event marketing and planning to the faculty and courses at the college.

“The program really prepares you,” says Sweeney, “everything is relevant.

According to the young professional, the program faculty also has a lot to do with the success of its students.

“Their doors were always open; they were easy to talk to and they were always responsive to our needs,” Sweeney explains. She credits program coordinator, Christine Smith, for recognizing her interest and talents, and encouraging her to pursue them. “She told me I was glowing every time I talked about Yellow House.”

Graduating just over three years ago, Sweeney is now the Senior Account Executive for the Toronto’s Yellow House Events. From her Client Project course,  to her Field Placement, to her present full time position, the job was a good fit from the start. The company works on events, specializing in product launches, galas, golf tournaments and conferences and is owned by the dynamic Grail Noble. It is located in a quaint, stylish office in the Distillery District.

During her semester at Centennial, Sweeney fell in love with event management.  The Wilfrid Laurier University graduate soon took it upon herself to plan the class Christmas dinner and end-of-the-year gathering. She now finds herself planning events and product launches with Yellow House for companies such as RIM and TELUS. She enjoys paying attention to details while envisioning the larger picture, and creating a lasting impression for her clients.

“It’s really rewarding when you can look at the bottom line and feel a sense of responsibility and achievement.”

Sweeney acknowledges the program for its networking opportunities, suggesting fellow grads become the people you rely on once you’re working in the field. She credits the guaranteed internship as a great way to gain experience, apply the skills learned in the program and expand these networking relationships.

Sweeney’s best tip for junior communicators?  Stay informed and keep on top of the ever-shifting trends in the industry. She recommends doing research and talking with professionals to better understand where you fit.

At the same time, she reminds young professionals to be creative and innovative. Her position at Yellow House Events allows her to do just that.

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“Centennial taught me everything I know”

Posted by bwaite on November 21, 2008


Nadia Radovini

Nadia Radovini

By Mohit Sharma, Class of 2009

For Nadia Radovini, Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, it was the corporate communications program at Centennial College that helped her recognize her writing skills and passion for communications.

“Centennial taught me everything I know today. The communications program taught me all the hands-on skills I use in my profession every day. I am grateful to my instructors for that,” says Radovini.

Radovini has been in communications for the past 12 years. It began with her taking up a voluntary public relations (PR) assignment with the Credit Valley Hospital in 1996. She enjoyed the position so much that in 1998, while in her third year at York University, she enrolled in the Joint Program in Corporate Communications at Centennial College. She graduated in 2001.  

“PR is much more than glamour and meeting new people every day. I realized this while pursuing this program and volunteering for the health care sector,” says Radovini. “Actually I would call myself a communicator rather than a PR person. The term PR sounds more like dealing with the public, which we do, but only to an extent.”

Radovini has been with Sunnybrook since 2002. She handles both internal and external communications for the hospital’s Neurosciences program. She has been rewarded for her work both in position and salary. She joined Sunnybrook as a Public Affairs Officer and was later promoted to the position of Communications Advisor. She credits Centennial’s communications program for her current success.

“I feel I am cut out for this job. I can’t work in an environment where I just have to push ideas or products. I really enjoy this work,” says Radovini, sharing her passion for the health care sector. “I feel I am contributing to something worthwhile; this industry truly affects us all.”

Radovini was also at the forefront of the hospital’s communications when the SARS issue broke in 2003. “The outbreak was the most challenging experience. Our work included attending war room meetings and regular communication to staff. Responding to more than 50 media requests a day, proactively and reactively providing the media and our publics with current and otherwise unattainable information during quarantine periods,” says Radovini, recalling her difficult,  and yet most successful assignment to date.

She leaves the following message for aspiring communicators: “Follow your instructors because what they teach in class really helps in your profession. Have strong work ethics, humility to learn new things,  be confident, yet open to learning.

“And volunteer, it helps you in making contacts and future references. Sometimes people don’t have jobs for you but they remember the good work. Volunteering gets you closer to what you love and aspire for in life. It can open up opportunities that you may not get otherwise”


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Students produce “real world” events

Posted by bwaite on November 14, 2008

One of the most “hands on” courses Centennial PR students take is Event Management (CN-145).  Led by the ever wise, ever energetic faculty member Jessie May Rowntree, students create and produce full-scale events in semester one. 

The course demands that students also find sponsors willing to help  defray the events’ costs. Most years, students also raise significant sums for local charities. This year is no exception.

In the coming weeks, Centennial’s PR students will see all of their hard work come to life as they produce the following events:

“Havana Nights,”  a salsa lesson and silent auction,  taking place November 18 at Whistler’s, one of our neighbourhood restaurants;

Won’t You Charleston With Me?,”a Roaring Twenties dance and cocktail event and fund raiser for Variety, the Children’s Charity of Ontario.  It takes place November 19 at Myth on the Danforth;

“Comedy for the Cause,” in support of Friends for Life Foundation, November 26 at Yuk Yuk’s on Richmond Street;

Arts in the Limelight,” a night celebratiang music and art, held November 27 at the Black Swan Tavern on Danforth Avenue; funds raised go to support Inner City Angels;

Drink and Think,”  planned for  November 28 at the Ontario Bartending School on Danforth Avenue.

As well, a group of students has organized our annual Corp Comm and PR Day for their classmates on November 20.  That’s a day when we cancel classes to enjoy PR-related events, games, and socializing.

This kind of real world training is what the CC+PR program at Centennial is all about.  Why not consider applying to the program if this is the kind of learning you want?

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Grads back to class event

Posted by bwaite on October 15, 2008

by T. J. Goertz, Class of 2009

It’s been a dozen years since she graduated from Centennial’s Corporate Communications and Public Relations program. Nevertheless, Rosie Mecca Lancaster still credits her workplace success to her time in school.

“I found that everything I learned at Centennial was easily transferable…I really find the program helps you to develop those skills you need out there in the real world. It’s very practical,” Mecca Lancaster said while speaking Sept. 26 to CC and PR students.

She was part of a group of four guests who visited the Centre for Creative Communications as part of the program’s Grads Back to Classevent, organized by program co-ordinator Christine Smith.

Mecca Lancaster, the Canadian Cancer Society Ontario’s senior co-ordinator of volunteer engagement, was joined by three other  grads ­– Rob Hogan, Sarah Ryeland and Dayna MacLeod.

Hogan, an account executive at Edelman Public Relations in Toronto, graduated from Centennial just 18 months ago. Thanks to Centennial’s intensive nine-month program, Hogan’s Field Placement was a positive experience. He enjoys working at the multinational agency.

Despite the stresses and pressures of agency life, he was able to cope well after making it through the CC and PR program. Hogan now works with some “dream clients,” including Ford and Molson.

“Personally, I like drinking beer and I like cars,” Hogan told the class. “CC and PR grads should make sure to find an internship they’re interested in.”

Ryeland, the Retail Council of Canada’s independent retail project co-ordinator, said program instructor Jessie-May Rowntree led her to think big after graduating a year ago. Before joining the CC and PR program staff, Rowntree was York University’s director of communications.

 “I was really sort of inspired by the work that she had done there. What I really wanted was a chance to work somewhere where I could get a really broad range of experience.”

As a senior event manager with BMO Capital Markets, MacLeod is doing just that – getting to practice her skills in a wide range of areas. She deals with industry conferences and other high-end client events, including movie screenings and skiing-related activities.

 “I absolutely love it,” MacLeod said. “I get to do lots of travel on the job…every event I do is different. What I love best about my job is the diversity of events I get to do.”

The four guest speakers provided an exciting hour-long discussion period for students.

“It was inspiring to find out how much graduates have benefited from what we’re doing now,” said Amy Teitel, a first semester CC and PR student.

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Helping Ontario tourism

Posted by bwaite on October 14, 2008

Grad, Class of 2008

Grad, Class of 2008

Staffeen Thompson is now a Media Relations Officer, International Markets, with Ontario Tourism Marketing and Promotion.


Here’s how she describes her job:  “It’s an exciting new position. I’m really excited to be back and happy they thought of me for it. I organize media tours – and send groups of journalists/photojournalists coming from Japan, UK/Europe, Mexico, China, on tours around Ontario.”

Staffeen did her Field Placement internship with OTMP.




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