PRCA/PRSSA at UAB wins national Teahan Award for Outstanding Chapter Firm

The Teahan awards recognize outstanding work and achievements by students in public relations from across the country.

Shaia streamFrom left to right: Sam Pugh, Gareth Daniel and Jacquelyn S. Shaia, J.D., Ph.D.
Photo by Jennifer Alsabrook-Turner
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s student chapter in public relations has won the national Dr. F.H. Teahan Award for Outstanding Chapter Firm from the Public Relations Student Society of America.

The Teahan awards recognize outstanding work and achievements by students in public relations from across the country.

This is the first time that UAB’s Public Relations Council of Alabama/Public Relations Student Society of America has won for outstanding chapter. Last year, PRCA/PRSSA at UAB won two Teahan awards, in the Community Service and Chapter Website categories.

PRSSA offers several awards for outstanding chapters each year. The Dr. F.H. Teahan Chapter Awards Program recognizes the outstanding achievements of PRSSA chapters in 12 categories, honoring achievements from ethical leadership to student-run firms. The awards — which bring diverse recognition, prestige and even funds — are sponsored by Champions for PRSSA.

Graduating seniors Sam Pugh, chapter president, and Gareth Daniel, membership chair, accepted the award with Jacquelyn S. Shaia, J.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Communication Studies, at the PRSA International Conference in Nashville.

“This is the first time the UAB chapter has won the award for Outstanding Chapter Firm,” Shaia said. “The students have worked extremely hard this year to represent local nonprofits, which included Hand-in-Paw, Better Basics, Will Bright Foundation, Ann’s New Life Center and Red Mountain Grace. This program emphasizes the UAB values of ethics and service, and this award particularly recognizes their ability to develop and deliver a campaign for their client. I am so proud of each of these students and know each of them will make valuable contributions in the field and in our community.”

Through their experiences leading the UAB chapter, Pugh and Daniel, who will graduate Dec. 8, are prepared and ready to move into their professional lives.

Sam Pugh

Pugh, of Birmingham, did not know what he wanted to study in college, changing majors before deciding on political science. It was an amazing department, he says, but he knew there was more he wanted to do. During the 2020 election, Pugh was excited seeing activism and people engaged in the political process and wanted to be in the heart of the conversation. He felt public relations was the way to get there.


Pugh will graduate Dec. 8 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications, with a concentration in public relations, and political science. He was the PRCA/PRSSA chapter president this year after serving as vice president of Membership last year. Pugh was selected for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Legacy Youth Leadership Program, and works for AmeriCorps VISTA as a project assistant for the City of Birmingham Department of Youth Services. He also worked with LeadEarly Birmingham, a cohort designed to prepare the city’s emerging leaders to go into the community and advocate for residents under the age of 5, and Heart Montana Agency, a student-run public relations firm, which represented Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School, a local nonprofit.

As he graduates, he says he has the confidence he did not have when he started this journey and feels “forever grateful.” His advice to other students is to be “completely yourself in everything you do.

“You can only become the best version of yourself when you are being yourself,” Pugh said. “College is for growing, so do not be afraid to make mistakes and grow. Dr. Shaia helped me believe in myself and grow into someone who can go into a career and be successful. She gave me chances to make mistakes and learn from them and provided support when times were hard in my academic and personal life. 

UAB is a special community, Pugh says.

“I have gotten to meet so many people who have been instrumental in my growth who may not even know it,” he said. “I have met the most amazing people through public relations that allowed me to be myself and grow. I would not be in the position to graduate without the support of this community.”

PRCA PRSSA Group PhotoPhoto by Jennifer Alsabrook-TurnerGareth Daniel

Daniel, 23, of Jasper, Alabama, is the chapter’s vice president of Membership, and worked as a communications intern for the UAB Facilities Division. He was a public relations consultant in the student-led communications agency Garey Communications, which represented The Grace Place, a local nonprofit. A sixth-year senior, Daniel will graduate Dec. 8 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications, with a concentration in public relations, and history.

Daniel transferred to UAB in what was supposed to be his senior year. Struggling after COVID, he moved to be closer to family, “to succeed like I wanted and maintain a support system that worked for me.”

He “thrived” at UAB, both academically and professionally, he says, and he also completed his degree from the previous university. Through his experience, Daniel has this advice to other students: “If it does not feel like the right track, then it is probably worth it to find the one that does feel right.

“Going through the PR program at UAB was a rewarding and challenging experience, and if you put forth the effort, you will succeed,” Daniel said.

“It is smaller, which makes it all the better, you get lots of hands-on time with both your fellow students and your professors, and there is always someone there to help you, between professors, other students and even previous students,” he said. “Dr. Shaia and the PR program reignited my passion for learning after the burn-out that COVID put me in.”