Winning top prizes in every category, students in UAB’s Public Relations program sweep state awards

UAB’s PRCA/PRSSA chapter won 29 individual student awards — the most of any state chapter — plus Chapter of the Year and more, while graduating senior Dylan Baggiano is the first at UAB to ever win both top individual awards.

Public relationsPRSA StreamUAB’s PRCA/PRSSA chapter won 29 individual student awards — the most of any state chapter — plus Chapter of the Year and more, while graduating senior Dylan Baggiano is the first at UAB to ever win both top individual awards. students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have been awarded top honors, even against schools with much larger programs, and are being recognized statewide and nationally.

The student-led PRCA/PRSSA at UAB chapter is an extension of the academic public relations program in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Communication Studies. Students interested in public relations can put their classroom learning into real-world practice through professional representation of nonprofit community organizations, including Better Basics, Hand-in-Paw and others. Their work helps these organizations succeed in their missions and gives students opportunities to live and deliver UAB values.

For 2023, UAB was named Chapter of the Year by the Public Relations Council of Alabama, and UAB students won 29 individual awards, including nine Medallion Awards — the highest awards given — as well as 10 Awards of Excellence and 10 Awards of Merit. The winners are selected for their professional work on projects for nonprofits.

The Alabama Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America awarded UAB prizes in every category submitted — a clean sweep. UAB won Chapter of the Year, Outstanding Campaign, Outstanding Community Service, Outstanding Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative, and Outstanding Chapter Website.

Last year, for the third consecutive year, the PRCA/PRSSA at UAB was awarded the 2022 Public Relations Society of America Star Chapter Award. So far this spring, UAB has garnered more awards than any other state chapter. This recognition comes from independent, practicing public relations professionals who have reviewed and judged their work and found it to be worthy of these awards.

cropped PRCAPRSSA Dylan 20230418Dylan Baggiano with Jaquelyn Shaia, Ph.D.In a first for UAB, UAB senior Dylan Baggiano, who will graduate April 29 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, won both of Alabama PRSA’s individual awards: the Public Relations WordSmith Award and the Public Relations Strategist Award. Baggiano is being recognized for his work as an intern with American Cast Iron Pipe Company and as the lead in his student-run firm, for its campaign for Better Basics. Baggiano, of Montgomery, Alabama, also won three Medallion Awards, and the Judge’s Choice Award for leading the campaign for Better Basics, a nonprofit advancing children’s reading and mathematics literacy.

Baggiano credited his honors to the program’s “very rigorous requirements” and for emphasizing “the importance of writing, the ethical practice of public relations and the value of internships.”

This is the first time one of UAB’s students has won both awards in the same year, says Associate Professor Jacquelyn Shaia, Ph.D., J.D., director of the UAB Public Relations program.

“Dylan is a remarkable student,” Shaia said. “He not only works and studies hard but is committed to ensuring everything he does is done well. That hard work and commitment are celebrated by these awards.” 

Each organization awarded UAB its most significant wins, Shaia says.

“This is truly a remarkable accomplishment for this student and chapter,” she said. “The chapter competed against every other school in the state — all of which have much larger programs. These students have worked extremely hard to distinguish themselves. Some won an award for every submission they entered, showing that UAB has a top tier program in public relations.”

UAB student winners of 2023 PRCA Awards are:

  • Medallion Award winners are Anaya Yoakum, Ann Marie Stephens, Samuel Adams, Lillie Ben Harris and Summer Bowman, who won two.
  • Award of Excellence winners are Anaya Yoakum, Ann Marie Stephens, Summer Bowman, Sophia Hogan, Chandler Holley, Lana Mohammed, Ryan Glover and Emilia Smith, who won three.
  • Award of Merit winners are Ann Marie Stephens, Ryan Glover, Anaya Yoakum, Lana Mohammed, Katlynn Mitchell, Samuel Adams, who won two, and Isabel Chimento, who won three.

PRCA/PRSSA at UAB is the Outstanding Student Organization at UAB for 2023, named by the UAB Office of Student Leadership and Involvement’s UAB Student Excellence Awards.

Students in the program learn how to compete and be successful in the workplace. This continuing recognition proves it, and students find well-paying jobs with no trouble, she says.

“The field is robust — and I am confident each will enter the workforce and their careers with the ethics, leadership and public relations skills they will need to succeed and make the world a better place,” Shaia said.

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PRCA/PRSSA at UAB conducts workshops, hosts networking events and guest speakers, and offers service-based learning in the community. The organization introduces members to versatile public relations areas, including professional development skills such as resume building, portfolio creation, working with clients, designing graphics, using social media efficiently and navigating internships. To learn more about membership opportunities for PRCA/PRSSA at UAB, visit the chapter’s website.