School of Communications earns top honor in PRWeek Awards competition

Elon was named PRWeek’s 2019 Outstanding Education Program and was celebrated at the PRWeek Awards dinner and presentation on March 21 in New York City.

The School of Communications has been named Education Program of the Year by PRWeek. The honor, part of the annual PRWeek Awards, widely considered one of the communications industry’s highest accolades, was announced at a ceremony March 21 in New York City.

Communications Dean Rochelle Ford (left) and Anissa Cooper ’19 celebrate at the 2019 PRWeek Awards dinner and presentation in New York City, where the School of Communications was named PRWeek’s 2019 Outstanding Education Program on March 21.
In their assessment of Elon, the PRWeek judges commended the school's “hybrid faculty members” who possess both terminal degrees and significant professional experience, and echoed the sentiments of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications explaining that the school adapts “nimbly to the demands of a digital, multimedia world of communication."

Additionally, judges noted that students have completed internships at “heavy-hitter PR agencies and organizations,” highlighted the accomplishments of the award-winning student-run agency Live Oak Communications, and championed the school’s “close industry connections” that lead to professionals frequently visiting campus and speaking with students.

The competition also celebrated the school’s high job placement rate: 96% of May 2017 graduates were employed or in graduate school nine months after graduation. 

Finalists in the Outstanding Education Program category included American University School of Communication, Baruch College – The City University of New York, Boston University College of Communication and DePaul University.

Dean Ford and Associate Dean Kenn Gaither (second from right) pose for a photograph on stage during the 2019 PRWeek Awards presentation.
​“Building and maintaining a top education program is a process – a challenge our faculty, staff and students accept every day,” said Communications Dean Rochelle Ford. “Before I arrived as dean last summer, I already knew that Elon was succeeding in the classroom, preparing our students for their professional industries. But it’s still great – and humbling – to see that the industry agrees.

“Under the leadership of Founding Dean Paul Parsons and the dedication of our faculty, staff, and professional partners, Elon University grew into one of the strongest PR programs in the nation," Ford added. "This award is a reflection of the school’s dedication to a student-centered education, and I congratulate all of those who help make Elon a great place to learn, study and grow.”

Ford commended Associate Dean Kenn Gaither and Visiting Professor John Doorley for compiling this year’s winning entry; it was the first time the school has entered the competition.

Congratulations are also in order for Anissa Cooper ’19, who was named honorable mention – or runner-up – for PRWeek’s Outstanding Student of the Year award. The strategic communications major was one of five finalists for the national award and attended the ceremony with Ford, Gaither and Doorley.

Cooper earned honorable mention in the PRWeek’s Outstanding Student competition and was acknowledged during the awards presentation.
​As part of the 2019 Outstanding Student competition, Cooper and other participants were charged with creating a campaign that reintroduced excessively wide-legged jeans as a fashion trend for Generation Z – these individuals were born after the trend’s peak in the 1990s.

Judges noted that Cooper’s campaign “stitched together the right threads of influencers, social media, and on-trend pop-up shops to make her campaign a smart approach to stand out in a noisy world.”

Alana Doyle, an undergraduate at the University of Alabama, was named the student winner.

Lastly, Barri Rafferty, president and CEO of Ketchum and member of the School of Communications National Advisory Board, won honorable mention for agency leader of the year. Ketchum did capture PRWeek’s Agency of the Past 20 Years award.