Internship fund helps communications student pursue her dream

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Hundreds of students in the College of Communications participate in internships every year, but there are very few like Marissa Miller.

A senior majoring in public relations, Miller used her recent internship with the American Red Cross as a vehicle to raise scholarship money -- not for her, but for her fellow students. Talk about paying it forward.

“I created an entire social media campaign from start to finish called #CrossMyHeartRED,” said Miller, who is originally from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. “It gave students the chance to create a video to share on Twitter. The video that received the most retweets won a scholarship that I was able to secure sponsors for.”

Those two scholarships totaled $6,000. The entire experience was made possible by a little help from the College of Communications Alumni Society Neal J. Friedman Internship Fund.

Students who participate in internships often need help in filling the gaps created by cost-of-living expenses that aren’t covered by their employer or student loans.

In Miller’s case, the Friedman Fund literally made it possible for her to get to her internship.

“You spend hundreds of hours working for free, and that doesn’t pay for food or gas,” said Miller. “Gas prices hit the wallet hard, and it was nice to know I could get to my internship every day because I had the money for gas.”

The support saved her money she could then use to pay tuition.

“This really helped me to cut down on the amount of interest I’m going to have to pay back for all the loans I’m taking,” she said.  Miller believes it could actually save her an entire year’s worth of tuition.

“I saw myself grow into a true professional during my internship,” said Miller. “There is no amount of money that could be placed on an opportunity like that, but the scholarship award makes it so much easier for a student to worry less about the cost of things and instead focus on their experience.”

Miller’s evolution into a public relations professional may have started before she even arrived at Penn State. True to her “pay it forward” philosophy, it was her involvement with a nonprofit group in high school that led her down her chosen career path.

“I actually love to bake, and I was deeply involved with a nonprofit organization called Cookies for Kids Cancer,” said Miller, adding that the urging of her parents led her to start thinking about public relations. “I aspire to be the marketing or communications director for a major food company that has excellent corporate or social responsibility, a fun organizational culture and one that’s true to its values.”

Supported by the College of Communications Alumni Society Board of Directors, the Friedman Fund continues to provide the necessary funds for dozens of students to comfortably participate in their internships every year. 

It’s easier than ever to contribute, with online donations accepted at (with “College of Communications Alumni Society Internship Fund” selected in the drop-down menu).

Miller figures to be the next in a long line of communications professionals whose career was launched, at least in part, by the Friedman Fund.

“I could absolutely see myself with a career at the American Red Cross,” said Miller. “But, this summer, I have an internship with a food giant, and I am so looking forward to that, since it’s really where my heart lies.”

Last Updated July 10, 2014