May 25, 2019  

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Southern Miss Sweeps Top Awards at 2016 PRAM State Conference

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The University of Southern Mississippi represented well at the annual state conference for the Public Relations Association of Mississippi (PRAM), held April 6-8 in Jackson, taking home nine awards, including a sweep of the competition’s top prizes. The Judges’ Choice Award, the Professional Achievement Award and the Student of the Year Award, were among the honors won by USM.

PRAM is a professional organization of public relations practitioners in Mississippi, consisting of approximately 600 public relations professionals from advertising and public relations agencies, corporations, nonprofit organizations, government, education, industries and others.

The Judges’ Choice Award was presented to USM’s Office of University Communications for the Choose Southern Miss campaign. Of the hundreds of entries submitted by universities, agencies, and businesses, University Communications was deemed as having the best public relations work of the year in all categories of the competition. Only two total Judges’ Choice honors were awarded at the 2016 conference.

“This is quite an honor that once again demonstrates that some of the top communications professionals in the state work in USM’s Office of University Communications,” said Jim Coll, director of University Communications and chief communication officer. “It is a credit to the hard work of the staff, and especially Brittney Westbrook, our assistant director for marketing communications, who creatively and organizationally leads USM advertising campaigns. It is also a credit to USM students, whose authentic stories continue to resonate and inspire.”

Receiving the Professional Achievement Award was Samantha McCain, communication coordinator for The Children’s Center for Communication and Development.

Bestowed upon one public relations practitioner annually, this award recognizes excellence in the field of public relations. It is given to a practitioner and PRAM member whose accomplishments have made a major contribution to the profession.

“I’m still shocked and very honored,” said McCain. “In comparison to past recipients, I have a very young career. Now, I've joined a list of people I look up to and admire. The fact those judges deemed me worthy to place my name next to their names is something I’m more than grateful for.”

Student of the Year, also presented annually, went to New Orleans native and graduating senior Kathryn Duke from the School of Mass Communications and Journalism.

Duke, who will be earning her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations, received this award for exemplifying the professionalism, goals and ideals of the profession.

Nominated by MCJ Assistant Director and Visiting Associate Professor Dr. Cindy Blackwell, Blackwell said she selected “Kathryn because of her exceptional performance in and out of the classroom.

“Kathryn is a diligent student who has professionally represented our school through her myriad internships and experiences. She maintains excellent grades and is always willing to help, whether it is with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) or The Agency,” she said. 

PRism Award winners – PRAM’s highest honor in each category for outstanding work in the field – went to Catherine Lott, communications coordinator for the DuBard School for Language Disorders; Hanna Knowles, marketing communication coordinator for the School of Kinesiology and assistant to the dean for communications for the College of Health; and University Communications for the Choose USM campaign in the category of Community Relations/Corporate/External Communications.

In the category of short-term strategic plans for special events, Lott received a PRism for the DuBard School “Speakeasy” and Knowles won in the long-term strategic plans category for the School of Kinesiology’s rebranding initiative.

Award of Excellence – PRAM’s second highest honor in each category – went to April Jordan, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Department of Recreational Sports; Tonya McGee, Career Services marketing specialist; and University Communications.

In the category of tactical materials/projects, publications and writing, Jordan received an Award of Excellence for the Recreational Sports services brochure and McGee in the category of social media for her work with the @USMCareerSrvcs handle on Twitter. University Communications won for a series of videos in the YouTube/Recorded Videos/Commercials category.