When someone is described as a "powerhouse," you can certainly get an idea in your mind of how exceptional this person must be. Dr. Diane Monahan, the chair of the Department of Marketing, Communication, Hospitality and Sport Business and an associate professor of communication at Saint Leo University, used this descriptor to sum up 2021 communication degree alumna Emily Prengaman.

Prengaman, a native of Wesley Chapel, FL, graduated from Wesley Chapel High School in 2018. She is one of seven children, three of whom are adopted. She has an Australian Shepherd, Kelso, and a cat, Newman.

Her older brother, Justin, is a Saint Leo alumnus who earned a bachelor's in marketing in 2014 and his MBA in 2017. He also worked for the university for five years as an assistant director of undergraduate admissions.

A Homecoming of Sorts to Saint Leo University

Prengaman initially attended a larger university in Mississippi but decided to transfer to Saint Leo University much closer to home.

"I got homesick and decided to move home over the winter break," she explains. "It was honestly the best decision I could have made."

She recalls visiting University Campus as a youngster when her brother was an undergraduate student.

"I remember touring the campus with him when I was in elementary school and he had started going there. It's funny how it all kind of came full circle."

Choosing the Communication Degree Program

She transferred to Saint Leo in January of 2019. She explains why she chose the bachelor's in communication degree program.

"I've always loved public speaking opportunities and getting the chance to have informed conversations with people," she says. "I also find it interesting to analyze the way people communicate with one another to contribute to something. I wanted to find a degree program and make a living with what I enjoy doing."

Outstanding Faculty in the Classroom

She says all of the professors she had both in the communication degree program and outside of it at Saint Leo University were truly remarkable.

"Dr. Monahan was a huge part of my college experience," she says. "She was also my brother's favorite professor. At the time I applied, she wasn't doing much student advising, but she was so up for being my advisor after my brother told her she had to. She has been such a big inspiration to me in so many ways."

She also had a unique connection to Dr. Kenneth Embry.

"He truly pours his heart into his classes," she says. "I also found out that his wife was my kindergarten teacher, so that was super cool knowing that they both got to teach me."

One class she took with Embry was a podcasting course. The podcast she developed for the class, which she called "Good Dog: A Dogcast," focused on her Australian Shepherd.

"That was a really fun class. It was cool to have a creative outlet like a podcast to express ourselves. I think podcasting is just an example of the future of communication. I told students at other schools that I was taking a podcasting class, and they all thought it was such a cool idea. I feel like this is an example of how Saint Leo is ahead of the curve in many areas."

Dr. Robyn Parker, the dean of the College of Business, and Dr. Jennifer Toole were memorable to her as well.

"Everyone in the College of Business was amazing," she says. "You can tell there is something special going on behind the scenes there. Every professor and staff member I met truly cared about my education, and I know that I will keep in touch with many of them for years to come."

She has some advice for prospective college students.
"Leaving the nest for the first time can be terrifying. My biggest advice is to go where your heart tells you to go, not somewhere you think you need to go or where others would like to see you go."

Recognizing Saint Leo University's Core Values

Prengaman says as soon as she set foot on the Saint Leo campus as a new student, she began applying several of the university's core values to her life.

"Community really stood out to me. Coming to Saint Leo from a larger university, it was the best culture shock I could have had happen to me and the best community I could have found."

In addition, personal development and responsible stewardship resonated with her.

"It starts with helping yourself become a better person," she explains. "You have to provide for yourself to provide for others. In the end, it's a selfless labor to serve the community around you."

A Unique Opportunity to Represent the Student Body

Prengaman was tapped to serve on the Dean's Student Advisory Council and was a founding member of this group.

"Our dean, Dr. Parker, reached out to all of the department chairs in the College of Business and was looking for students to form this council. The goal was for us to be the voice of the student body."

About 12 students were part of the council at the time. The group discussed ways to continue student involvement during the COVID-19 pandemic, getting students more engaged in their classes, and other strategies in which faculty could better support and communicate with students.

"The professors got a lot of great feedback from this effort," she says. "For example, some students suggested professors post weekly to-do lists to help students stay on track with their online classes since many of them were used to learning in the classroom."

Prengaman was so proud to be part of this group and its mission.

"It was an honor to be nominated by my department chair," she says. "It's really empowering to be part of something like this that helps serve the student body."

Helping to Launch the Women in Business Club

In addition to the council, Monahan approached Prengaman during the 2019-2020 academic year to collaborate on developing the university's first-ever Women in Business Club.

"Dr. Monahan asked if I'd be interested in starting this club with her," she recalls. "It had been on her radar for a while and she was looking for the right opportunity to launch it. We had casual conversations about women's rights in the workplace. I said I was absolutely interested. I think she is the perfect person to advise a club like this."

The club is primarily designed for female students to have candid discussions about women in the workplace and give students opportunities to network with successful female professionals from a variety of backgrounds. However, male students are more than welcome to join.

Planning a Virtual Roundtable Event

In the fall of 2020, the Women in Business Club held a unique virtual panel event on Zoom with several top female business executives from around the Tampa Bay area. When club members reached out to potential panelists, Prengaman wasn't totally sure on what kind of response they would get.

"We were so ambitious and thought some of these women were out of our league, but they were so revved up to be part of such a virtual event."

The panel included representatives from Tampa General Hospital, Rockwell Financial Group of Raymond James, Broadstaff, and other top companies in the area. It was a connection Prengaman made during this event that would later help her land a new career.

She adds that the club has given its members hope for the future in terms of women in the workplace.

"It was so cool to reach a point in my life where I could see myself being successful in the business world because I saw other women doing this," she says. "I have 2 younger sisters, and I think there will be so much opportunity for them to be what they want to be when they grow up."

Now 21, Prengaman's resume already goes back several years. At age 14, she started working at Weightman Middle School in the front office, a school she had attended herself.

"That was a big growth experience for me," she confides. "It was definitely a turning point in which I grew up fast."
By 19, she became the general manager of Max's Pet Market & Salon in Wesley Chapel.

"It's a family-owned pet store," she explains. "It was the best job I've ever had. The owner told me to basically run the store as I felt it should be run and he'd be there to help if I needed him. Even though I was working seven days a week, I absolutely loved it and developed so many great relationships with the customers."

While a student at Saint Leo, she also worked for University Campus Admissions during one summer.

How Professional Networking Pays Off

Thanks to her involvement in the Women in Business Club, Prengaman landed her current role. Carrie Charles, the CEO of the Tampa-based staffing agency Broadstaff, participated in the Women in Business Club virtual panel event last fall. Earlier this year, she reached out to Prengaman on LinkedIn.

"She saw I was graduating and said she had an opportunity for me," Prengaman explains. "It's amazing what networking can do for you as a student."

Charles offered her a staffing and marketing coordinator position which Prengaman accepted and started in May.

"It's a brand new position and I love it," she says.

A Desire to Serve Others

On top of her seemingly impossible schedule, she has done volunteer work for the Wounded Warrior Project and interned with the Thomas Promise Foundation, a nonprofit serving underprivileged children in Pasco County, FL.

As for a long-term career goal, she could see herself helping young women succeed much like her professors have done for her.

"The joke is that I want to be Dr. Monahan. I want to be in a position where I can empower young women to help them feel liberated in whatever they want to choose in a career."

Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Emily Prengaman and is used with permission.