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Communication students earn top awards in national media and marketing competition

March 26, 2012 : By Olivia Witherite

Chelsea Dawson (left) and Ashley Kelly recently placed first in the student category of the John Caples International Awards.

Liberty University made a huge presence at the 2012 John Caples International Awards in New York City on March 22, winning both first and second place for Student Campaign of the Year.

The team of alumna Ashley Kelly (’11) and senior Chelsea Dawson came in first in the student category out of more than 700 total entries, winning a $5,000 prize and paid internships from Alloy Media + Marketing, the contest’s sponsor and a leader in media production and distribution.

“I was honored that I … was able to sit in a room with award-winning professionals in direct and interactive marketing,” Dawson said.  “I would highly encourage students to submit themselves into competitions because you will have the chance to meet agencies and gain experience in your field.”

Kelly added, “We never thought we would get this far, and we never would have if we didn't apply ourselves. It was amazing meeting the GM representatives and hearing their thoughts about our campaign.”

Dawson, an advertising major, and Kelly, who graduated in December with a degree in public relations, prepared a marketing campaign for General Motors called “College Discount. Genius” for their COMS 489 class.

“Our assignment was to create an integrated marketing campaign for the GM College Discount Program with a budget of $1.2 million,” Dawson said. “Our target (market) was college students and recent graduates.”

Fellow Liberty students Ricky Deakyne and Owen Baker took second place in the competition, winning silver recognition and a $1,000 cash prize.

This competition marks the second time Liberty’s communications program has been recognized nationally this semester. Senior Keri Cook was recently named Student of the Year by PRWeek, a weekly trade magazine for the public relations industry.

“We are so excited that Liberty students are becoming known in the public relations and advertising field on a national scale,” Kelly said. “We could not have gotten to this point without our education from Liberty as well as the support and prayers of our amazing professors.”

COMS 489 is taught by Dr. Angela Widgeon who uses contest entries as part of the curriculum so students can gain hands-on experience and learn from major firms and organizations.

“Dr. Widgeon was a great encourager, mentor and supporter throughout the entire process,” Kelly said. “She helped us understand the process of a campaign and how to create one from initial research to the creation of a media schedule. We wouldn't have even entered the competition without her encouragement and requiring it in her class.” 

Before graduating, Kelly served as the president of Liberty’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA.) Currently, Dawson serves as PRSSA’s director of promotions and is the vice president of the university’s branch of the American Advertising Federation (AAF).

  • Advertising and Public Relations is a specialization under Liberty’s Department of Communication Studies, which also offers undergraduate degrees in Cinematic Arts, Digital Media (formerly broadcasting), Journalism, Speech Communication, Graphic Design and Studio Art. Liberty also offers a Master of Arts in Communication Studies, with concentrations in Media & Communication Studies and Interpersonal & Organizational Communication.