By: Chantal Shaw
Each year, the Grand Rapids Business Journal recognizes the best of the best in the annual 40 Under 40 event. Throughout the night, these top young business leaders are honored for all of their hard work, success and accomplishments.
Last night, I was fortunate enough to attend this prestigious event and sit amongst some of Grand Rapid’s most successful leaders. The night was filled with great entertainment from music and a comedy show to a video reel of all of the honorees. While it was truly inspiring to hear from all of the honorees, there were two specially that stood out and left a lasting impressing on me.
The 2016 40 under 40 event recognized two of our very own GVSU Advertising and Public relations alumni: Rick Jensen and Adam Russo.
Rick Jensen has an extensive background in communications and public relations including working at Davenport University, SeyferthPR and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Since then he has won multiple Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Proof Awards, was named President of West Michigan’s PRSA Board of Directors in 2015, and continues to have a successful career as the Senior Media Relations Specialist at Spectrum Health.
“I am honored and humbled to be included among such a wonderful group of well-known professionals and community leaders,” said Jensen. “As a PR professional, it means even more for the profession that our work is being recognized by business leaders and validated by such a prestigious list and publication.”
Jensen said that GVSU helped set him up for success in career through the great things he learned from the amazing professors in the School of Communications.
For aspiring PR professionals, his biggest piece of advice is to land an internship early on and get involved within your major.
“My first internship was highly influential in landing my first job out of college, and the relationships I made at that time are the building blocks on which my career is built upon today,” said Jensen.
Adam Russo is deeply rooted in the West Michigan communications community where he has had an extremely successful career thus far working previously at Haworth and SeyferthPR. After gaining experience working with global brands like Amway and Haworth, regional companies like Comcast and Varnum and several different nonprofits, Russo began his own public relations firm, COM 616. He will also serve as the next president for the West Michigan PRSA chapter.
“I’m truly honored to be recognized with the 40 Under Forty award,” said Russo. “When I looked at the full list of honorees, I was humbled by the level of everyone’s talent, experience and leadership. “
Russo said that GVSU provided him with the foundation that he was able to build his career on. He also advised students to recognize their network as one of their most valuable resources.
“Start building your network while you’re in college,” said Russo. “Get out and meet as many people as you can. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and meet new people.”
As an aspiring PR professional, I take every bit of advice from the real pros that I can get. We’ve been told countless times that entering this field will not always be easy and things will never be handed to us. And sometimes, the future can seem kind of scary. However, at Grand Valley we are fortunate enough to be provided with countless opportunities for professional and personal growth. We are given the tools necessary to help us survive in the “real world” and be successful within our chosen field of advertising and public relations. Jensen and Russo are proof that with hard work come great rewards. Their professional success is a testament to the idea if you work hard enough, make great connections and relationships, and get involved within your field- you really can accomplish great things.
While attending the 40 under 40 event, it was clear to see the passion that each honoree had for their career as well as the city of Grand Rapids. Congratulations to both Rick Jensen and Adam Russo on representing our great city and our great school!