Public relations major Contessa Davis will graduate from the University of South Carolina
a whole year early, but the impact she’s had through her many leadership roles will
leave a mark long after she’s gone.
With just three years to figure out her plan for the future, the Sumter native dove
into campus activities. She worked as a resident mentor, volunteered as a University
101 Peer Leader and served as president of the university’s chapter of the Public
Relations Student Society of America.
“Nothing compares to the servant leadership that I’ve been able to experience during
my time here,” she says. “Being a resident mentor, peer leader and chapter president
has challenged me in the best way. I’ve been a friend, a mentor and a confidant —
it’s the most irreplaceable feeling in the world.”
She’s won numerous awards as an undergraduate student, including the SJMC’s Outstanding Public Relations Senior Award and the Inclusive Excellence in Public Relations Award. And she participated on the
university’s Bateman Team, which was recently recognized with an honorable mention in a nationwide campaign competition.
The SJMC’s faculty and staff have played a big part in preparing her to succeed, especially
graduate student services manager Camea Cato. Davis first met Cato while exploring the school’s accelerated master’s degree program,
and in fall 2020, she served as Cato’s U101 Peer Leader. The two quickly developed
a close relationship.
“Camea and I have formed a unique bond that I am so thankful for,” Davis says. “Coming
from a similar background of being Black women in the public relations, journalism
and advertising fields, she has been a great guide for me and a person who has looked
out for me.”
And Cato pushed her to take risks and follow her dreams. It paid off — Davis will
attend The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management in
the fall to pursue a career in communications and politics.
“Jump off the cliff now — that’s what I always told her,” Cato says. “You’re going
to fly somewhere, but don’t try to take risks later rather than sooner. Take the risks
now. You’re not going to know what you’ll be able to do unless you go for it. She
went for it, and she got it.”
After graduate school, Davis hopes to work for political campaigns and be a voice
for those who are underrepresented.
Getting involved on campus, speaking up and fostering relationships have been the
key to her success at the university, and she encourages other students to do the
“Always be vocal about the things that you want and the things you believe you can
add to anything, whether it be a singular event or an entire organization,” she says.
“Never fail to get connected with people but in a genuine way, because all connections
aren’t good connections. And always remember — closed mouths don't get fed. If you
want it, you have to go get it.”
Paige Fallon is an intern in the communications office of the College of Information
and Communications. She is a senior public relations major and political science
minor. She plans on attending law school after taking a gap year post graduation to
explore her interests in the field of law.