UNI alum a finalist for prestigious national PR award

Hard work has been a way of life for Trevor Rayhons since he was a child helping his father with chores on the family farm in Garner, Iowa. That work ethic combined with talent and passion have led to national recognition of his skills.

The public relations graduate has thrived in his job at Horizon Therapeutics, global biotechnology company with U.S. headquarters in Deerfield, Ill. and global headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. There, his work improving communications and serving as a champion for the LGBTQ+ community led to him recently being named one of just five finalists for a prestigious national public relations industry award. UNI alum Trevor Rayhons

“I never imagined I’d be at this point in my career after graduating from UNI three years ago,” Rayhons, who was nominated for PRWeek’s Outstanding Young Professional Award, said. “I feel like I was ready for it because UNI prepared me with the knowledge and strategic mindset to take on anything.”

At 25, Rayhons is already on a path of success. And his roots are classic small-town Iowa. He grew up in Garner, a town of 3,000 near Clear Lake and Mason City. His father was a farmer. When he left high school, he enrolled at Simpson College to pursue a degree in vocal performance. Along the way, he took a communications class and fell in love with the idea of working in public relations.

After a year at Simpson College, Rayhons decided to move on, and he looked at all three major universities in Iowa. But he only visited one: UNI. There he met one-on-one with Chris Martin, a professor of digital journalism in the department of communication and media.

“He was very welcoming and easy to talk to, and he really listened to how I was feeling about this transition in my life,” Rayhons said. “After that, I knew that UNI would be big enough to offer the opportunities I was looking for, but still had a familial feel--Chris Martin showed me that.”

Once he transferred, Rayhons dove into all the opportunities UNI had to offer. He joined the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter on campus, where he eventually served as president. He was also a resident assistant in Rider and Lawther halls.

“I love UNI to the point where I’m mad at myself that I didn’t get four years there,” Rayhons said with a laugh.

Before he graduated, he said he was prepared for his career, thanks to an internship at AMPERAGE Marketing and Fundraising and the networking opportunities offered by traveling to conferences across the United States with PRSSA.

“I was able to take the skills I learned in the classroom and apply them,” Rayhons said. “That really pushed me to the next level.”

After landing an internship at Pfizer in New York City following graduation and a stint at GCI Health, an integrated healthcare communications agency, Rayhons instantly made his mark at Horizon.

“From the moment Trevor entered Horizon’s U.S. headquarters, he has established his ability to jump right in and make a difference,” wrote Kelly Jansen, senior director of corporate communications at Horizon, on Rayhons’ PRWeek Awards nomination form. “Many PR professionals strive to be authentic and counsel clients to be ‘real’ and approachable. Trevor leads with those qualities in his daily work.”

First, Rayhons overhauled the company’s digital signage, developing relevant story-focused, vibrant and informative content across nearly 50 screens in three U.S. offices.

“With only one year of professional experience under his belt, he confidently pointed out the disparity in digital signage and put a plan into place to upgrade the technology and platforms, increasing engagement,” Jansen wrote. 

He also drives employee engagement by writing company intranet articles and producing the organization’s most-opened weekly email newsletter, The Horizon 5. In 2020, he also spearheaded the launch of a digital asset management system by organizing and uploading more than 60,000 corporate photos and videos into the system, making them available for use to all employees. 

“Over time, my role has expanded into strategic project management and a number of visibility opportunities that I never thought I would get this early on in my career,” Rayhons said.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Rayhons has also supported LGBTQ+ issues in both his company and community. At Horizon, Rayhons, who identifies with the LGBTQ+ community, co-founded the LGBTQ+ business resource group. Within six months, he was raising the pride flag with the CEO of the company as part of an event affirming the company’s support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

And while the company has moved away from business resource groups, forming an integrated inclusion program titled, “RiSE,” Rayhons serves on RiSE leadership focusing on the LGBTQ+ community and emerging professionals. 

“Trevor has such a passion for fostering inclusion among his colleagues and beyond,” said Michelle Rivas, product communications at Horizon. “He has a maturity that goes well beyond his years, and it’s been wonderful to see him progress in the communications space and lead with empathy at Horizon.”

Rayhons is also a member of the Vernita Gray Council for Philanthropy, the auxiliary board for the Howard Brown Health, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ clinics based in Chicago. The agency serves more than 35,000 adults and youth in its diverse health and social service delivery system. He is also a strategic communications advisor for the Prysm Institute's Equity for Equity program, an initiative to increase opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs in healthcare and the life sciences to secure financial capital.

Rayhons said the importance of his work in this area was highlighted by a tumultuous 2020 sparked with violence and protests, as minority communities have continued to reckon with a society plagued with systemic racism and bias. 

“We all feel like this needs to change. And so being part of that has been emotionally difficult, but incredibly important,” Rayhons said.

And he’s certainly not finished yet.

“I feel this is just the beginning of my career journey,” Rayhons said. “What has been key in my professional development is the importance of keeping an open mind, being willing to learn and try new things, and sometimes taking risks--often times they open doors and present exciting and new opportunities.”