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In Long Shadows of ‘Scandal,’ Andrew Vo’s Drive and Passion Unlock PRSSA’s National Gold Key Honors

The pioneering role of Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope on ABC’s hit, “Scandal,” leads then 17-year-old Andrew Vo to discover the power of public relations and to land many new starring roles, including a top PROTOS award for a special event in Orange County’s Little Saigon community.

 

By Ted Nguyen, OC/PRSA Board Member

I share many things with Andrew Vo, Cal State Fullerton’s uber organized PRSSA president.

We are among a handful of Vietnamese Americans in the public relations profession in Southern California. We’re both children of refugees who fled war-torn Vietnam.

The difference: I’ve worked on Capitol Hill in the 1990s, but I have never watched “House of Cards” or “Scandal.” Vo has never set foot professionally in the nation’s capitol, yet he was obsessed with ABC’s hit political drama, “Scandal.”

It was that wildly popular TV series that helped launch the dream of Andrew Vo to go into public relations as a career. While only 17 at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., Vo researched Kerry Washington’s pioneering character, Olivia Pope who owns a D.C.-based PR powerhouse agency.

Andrew Vo’s dedication and passion for PR play front and center roles in receiving the National Gold Key Award from the Public Relations Student Society of America at its annual conference in Boston. Along with his leadership team pictured above, Vo worked to deliver quality value to one of the largest chapters in the U.S.

Vo was hooked at the high drama and political intrigue of both the hit TV series and the profession of public relations.

“I wanted to study public relations because it fascinated me – the idea to represent a client and be able to positively impact or change a narrative through sources such as traditional media and social media,” Vo said.

Now four years later, Vo’s goal of following in the footsteps of his favorite TV character got a boost.

It may not be an Emmy award but for Andrew Vo, it’s as good as gold. PRSSA awards only the best of the best for its most-coveted National Gold Key honor.

At its annual conference in Boston in October, the Public Relations Student Society of America awarded Vo the most-coveted prize – the National Gold Key Award.

I was also in Boston as a national delegate to PRSA, but I had to leave early for work. I was only able to see Vo accepting the highest award from PRSA via Instagram posts and tweets on the JetBlue flight back to Southern California.

With 26 conference-goers, Cal State Fullerton’s PRSSA chapter ranks among the largest and most diverse contingency at the national student conference in Boston. Andrew Vo and his fellow students participate in an informal chat with PRSA Chair Jane Dvorak, APR and Fellow PRSA, at her hotel suite before the start of the international conference for professionals.

The prestigious National Gold Key Award honors a handful of outstanding public relations student leaders who excel in their academic study of public relations, pursue ambitious professional development opportunities, are active leaders in their PRSSA chapters and have a profound potential for future greatness.

Cal State Fullerton communications professor Dennis Gaschen worked with Vo as his faculty adviser before retiring earlier this summer. Gaschen, APR and PRSA College of Fellows, said Vo’s drive and passion as the president of Cal State Fullerton’s PRSSA Chapter and for the PR industry never ceased to amaze him.

“I quickly realized that Andrew is a highly motivated public relations student who is dedicated to the educational and professional development of others. His involvement with PRSSA continues to push him to take initiatives to further develop his skills,” Gaschen said. “I truly believe Andrew has as solid base necessary for a PR professional and leader. He is passionate, determined and results-oriented, which prepares him for the rigors of public relations.  He will make the most of his experience as a student and PRSSA president.”

Vo credits his success to intensive experiences gained at leading the 241-member student chapter, the largest number ever at Cal State Fullerton and the largest on the West Coast and internships at Echo Media Group, Moxxe PR, and the Maxwell Center for International Communications.

I also worked with Vo on several high-profile community programs at the Orange County Transportation Authority as well as tapped into his volunteer services for the Orange County Chapter of PRSA.

I have worked with numerous student leaders from many universities over my 20 years as a public relations professional. I can say unequivocally that this year’s student organization from Cal State Fullerton under the leadership of Vo has surpassed even my high expectations.

Vo will be a force to be reckoned with after he graduates next May.

His dream job? To follow in the footsteps of Kerry Washington’s character and open up his own PR agency.

Perhaps a future Vo & Associates will serve as the agency of record for the next hit TV drama.

  1. Stephanie Thara Metzinger
    Reply

    Great blog, Ted. And HUGE congratulations to Andrew!! Andrew’s gumption and enthusiasm are truly unmatched. He is truly one of the most impressive PR students I have ever met.

  2. Angela Burrell
    Reply

    Congrats Andrew for stellar results, your leadership and on receiving the Gold Key Award! I’m a past recipient as well, a lover of Scandal and House of Cards, and hail from Boston. Hats off to you for choosing Public Relations and to Ted for your profile!

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