Deniz Sonmez-Alpan is a graduating senior earning her B.A. in Foreign Language & Communication Media with specializations in Spanish and Public Communication and a minor in International Business. She served as this year's President of AU Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and has previously worked in the AU Student Government as President of the Class of 2013.
Deniz joined AU PRSSA the spring of her sophomore year and later was fortunate enough to study abroad the spring semester of her junior year in Madrid, Spain. During the fall of her senior year, Deniz spearheaded AU PRSSA's first ever "LA @ AU" event in which four professionals from the entertainment industry visited AU to speak on a panel about their careers in entertainment communication. AU PRSSA intends to repeat the event with New York City as a theme next fall.
Most recently, Deniz worked as a communications intern in Discovery Communications' social media department and as a strategy intern at iStrategyLabs, a digital agency in Dupont Circle. She also worked at a marketing agency while studying in Madrid, at WordWrite Communications as a public relations intern, and in the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence. Deniz speaks fluent Turkish and conversational Spanish.
A native of Pittsburgh, Deniz enjoys indulging her passion for musical theater, writing, traveling, and learning more about convergence in communication and social media. After graduation, she will be working in New York City in Burson-Marsteller's Corporate Communications practice.
Fifty years ago, John Fitzgerald Kennedy gave the commencement speech here at our American University. President Kennedy told the audience that this is a "young and growing university". Today, while it may be a bit older, American remains a growing, thriving and fascinating university. We continue to be the most politically active campus in the nation, our diverse student body is unparalleled, and our student involvement in activities and organizations is better than ever.
As we've grown, we've also made a lot of progress on a little something President Kennedy focused on in his speech: and that is peace. We have a harmony and cohesion among our students that you'd be hard pressed to find at many other universities. The many bold personalities on this campus, especially in our class of 2013, have learned over the years to understand, learn from and accept one another—differences and all. But I find a different type of peace to be equally as important: inner peace.
Over the past four years, AU's School of Communication has been the place where we, budding communication experts ready to enter the workforce, have developed our skills, our personalities and ourselves. Whether we've filmed President Obama at a press conference, hosted a social media centered networking event, or written a front page article for the Washington Post, so many of us have done something in SOC that has defined us throughout our college career and made us realize, "Wow. This makes me happy. I'm doing something right."
When I came to American, I promised myself that at some point, I would be a part of something that would make me just as happy as my childhood passion, musical theater—something that would provide for me that inner peace.
Luckily, I found that in the School of Communication. I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America my sophomore year and it was the best decision I could have made. I spent time around people who shared my interests—who understood the importance of communication and public relations—and I felt trulycomfortable that I was doing what I should be both for my career, but more importantly my happiness. I wanted nothing more than for my friends and others around me to have this "a-ha!" moment as well.
We did have those moments. We found that harmony within ourselves in SOC because of our involvement, because of our eagerness to inform and most of all, because of our professors. Somewhere amidst all of the classes we've taken, it's clicked. Now, we're going on to be the next communicators, journalists, photographers, producers, speechwriters, publicists, filmmakers, social media experts…okay. You get the idea.
I can only hope that each and every one of us has found this inner peace while studying in the School of Communication, and that it guides us long after we leave AU. We are now prepared, driven and aware citizens of the world—and it's time for us to move forward and impart our knowledge and experience to those who perhaps haven't yet found that inner peace. We've created our paths; let's now follow them and go be wonderful.
What have you gained from your time in SOC?
I have gained so, so much from my time in SOC. I declared my major at the end of my freshman year and took classes that challenged my writing, my critical thinking and my overall outlook on communication. I've built strong and lasting relationships with several SOC professors—one of the best parts of that is having meaningful and important conversations with them both in and out of the classroom, and having several opportunities to apply their guidance and expertise on my own. I've learned how to not only open myself up intellectually, but also how to develop myself as a professional. SOC helped me become more aware of my abilities and has taken away any fear I had of not being ready for "real life". Essentially, SOC has trained me to be a true communicator.
What is the one experience you've had at AU/SOC that you feel will best prepare you for your future?
I would not trade my time in the AU Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) for anything. The organization has given me so much – my best friends, the ability to network with seasoned communications professionals, and both group and leadership skills. Being a part of PRSSA reaffirmed my desire to enter the public relations industry and allowed me to work alongside people who are just as passionate as myself. Learning how to lead a group toward a common goal and simultaneously act as a group member is incredibly valuable, for a leader is nothing without their group (and there is a lot of group work in communications!). I learned how to properly plan an event, keep a budget healthy, and most importantly, prioritize and delegate responsibility. The experiences I've had with my peers in this organization will stay with me long throughout my career and always remind me where I sharpened a number of my communications tools: AU.