Nina Marie Costa is a highly successful public relations professional who is living out her dream, but she was once a student in those Monmouth University classrooms with hopes of breaking into this industry.
She graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in communication and a concentration in journalism and public relations, with a double minor in health studies and psychology. Although she considers herself a shy person, the reason behind why she got into this field was much more powerful. Costa said,“ I really do enjoy the idea of telling a story, not only to tell a story to get media attention, but really tell a story with purpose.”
Although Costa is very passionate about what she does, PR was not initially her first career choice. “In high school, I really enjoyed biology and human studies, and I initially thought I wanted to go into medicine and become a pediatrician.”
After taking AP biology classes, she realized that it wasn’t for her. She ultimately decided that becoming a psychiatrist or something related to health studies would be a better fit for her. After having taken her core classes freshman and sophomore years at Monmouth as a psych student, Costa came to the realization that it wasn’t necessarily for her either, and decided to switch majors. However, minoring in psych has been beneficial in her current career, as she uses it on a daily basis.
While at Monmouth, she was very active and participated in many extracurricular activities such as student government, held federal work study jobs where she worked with a lot of non-profit organizations in Monmouth county, was part of a sorority Phi Sigma Sigma, where she was the recruitment and philanthropy chair, and was even a writer for The Outlook, where she covered stories for the features section.
As someone who was actively involved on campus, Costa has so many fond memories of her time at Monmouth, but her favorite memory happened during sophomore year after having pledged to Phi Sigma Sigma. “All of the friends that I was close with, we all decided to pledge together, so our sophomore year we all decided to live in the same dorm. We lived at Spruce, on the same floor, so it was just really fun having friends so close,” she said.
With a smile on her face, Costa thought and reflected back on that memory. She said that you may take for granted the proximity of friends while on campus, but when you graduate, everyone is spread apart conveying the message to enjoy it while it lasts.
Of course, not everything in college is a piece of cake, as Costa faced one challenge that all college students can relate to. “Just going from high school to college in general is a huge change in someone’s life, so not being as close to family was tough. Also, finding your friend group while also being able to keep up with your grades is a little bit of an adjustment,” she said.
Costa noted that some of the communication courses she enjoyed the most were those taught by faculty member Kristine Simoes. Costa still remains in contact with Simoes and considers her as a mentor that she can count on for any advice she may need. “For every single little thing that comes to my brain, whether it’s the PR world or if I just have a crazy thought, I’ll reach out to her,” said Costa.
Kristine Simoes, Specialist Professor of Communication, could not be any prouder of all of Nina’s accomplishments. Simoes said, “Her professional transitions and growth have been steady. She’s worked exactly the way she’s supposed to, and has always gotten the opportunities she deserves.”
“I think Nina is one of those stars that gives back when she can and I think it’s great for other Monmouth majors to see what is attainable with hard work,” she continued.
Another professor that she enjoyed taking was Specialist Professor Mary Harris. It was thanks to one of her social media portfolio classes that Costa was able to land a job.
One fun fact that many might not have known about Costa is that she participated in the Miss New Jersey USA pageant in 2013 with the purpose of helping her get out of her comfort zone, as she knew her career would require her to be a people person. One anecdote that she remembers is that as she was participating in the pageant she had won homecoming queen at Monmouth. “I definitely feel like it helped with stage presence and public speaking, and it definitely helped me get out of my shell,” Costa said.
When it comes to finding internships, Costa found one that wasn’t exactly what she was looking for but turned out to be the key to helping her land her first job. “I decided to go with a smaller PR agency my junior and senior year, and because it was so small I wasn’t sure if it was reputable or if anybody would know it,” she said. Little did she know that when she was interviewing at Coyne PR, and mentioned she interned at this agency, people right away knew who was the CEO.
Costa reflected about this experience, “It really is about your network and who you know. I went into that interview expecting nothing and got my first job out of it.”
Currently, Costa is the Assistant Director of Public Relations and Entertainment Marketing at UNICEF USA, where she oversees all of North America’s public relations efforts on a local and regional level. She covers everything from print, broadcast, radio, and online to raise awareness of the UNICEF mission in the United States. During her time at UNICEF USA, Costa has established local media partnerships in New York and Chicago where she works with producers, reporters and UNICEF colleagues around the globe to create timely stories and segments that raise awareness for UNICEF.
In March 2020 Costa took a memorable trip, “I traveled to Tanzania with a local New York television station and media partner PIX11 to witness UNICEF’s education and nutrition programming. I’d say it was one of the most life changing experiences for me – to be able to see the wonderful work UNICEF does in action.”
All the work she does has paid off, as she was named one of the 2021 PRSA-NY 15 under 35 award recipients, which is something she is excited and flattered to receive. “I’m very humbled and grateful to the three people that nominated me for it,” she said. This award is dedicated to PR professionals in the greater New York area that are under 35 years old, and recognize rising talent across PR agencies.
Costa shares some words of wisdom for current students looking to break into the PR industry. “Send people a LinkedIn message, but be thoughtful. I think you’ll find that people want to help you and think that things will happen.” she said.
Reflecting back on her career so far, there are many lessons she has learned that can easily translate into advice that can be applied to the life of current students. Costa said, “Have patience, trust your journey, and instead of burying your problems, face them and speak up.”
As Costa’s mentor, Kristine Simoes, said, “She should bask in her glory.”