Every year, five finalists from across the country are
chosen in the PRWeek
Student of the Year competition. This year, two are
SUNY Oswego students.
SUNY Oswego is doubly represented
in a prestigious national competition, as public
relations majors Melissa
Andrews ’07 (left)
and Leila Boukassi
’08 are two of the
five finalists for the PRWeek
Student of the Year award. They traveled to New
York City in late January to compete in the finals
by presenting ideas, some required on short notice,
to top professionals. They will learn who won
at a dinner in New York City later this month.
Public relations majors Melissa
Andrews ’07 and Leila
Boukassi ’08 competed in the finals Jan.
28 and 29 in New York City. They will learn how they
placed at an awards dinner March 8 at Tavern on the
Green in New York City. “Everyone in the industry
is going to go,” which will make it a great networking
opportunity, Andrews said.
Andrews and Boukassi prepared a 10-page campaign plan
for Motorola in Professor Tina Pieraccini’s “Advanced
Public Relations” class, which included an entry
form for the competition, but admitted they were surprised
to learn they were finalists.
“I wanted to do well on it,” Andrews said
of the project. “I really didn't expect to get
top five in the country.”
Pieraccini said their performance speaks well for Oswego’s
public relations program. “It shows that our program
graduates students ready to compete in the competitive
field of agency PR at the level of the top 10 agencies
in the country,” she said.
Both their projects showed “creativity and attention
to client needs,” the professor said. “They
did not just do a generic campaign -- they really thought
about the target audience and came up with campaigns
based on target insight.”
In New York, each finalist had to present to a professional
panel and make a phone pitch to a reporter based on
their campaigns. But they didn’t know they would
have to do, on very short notice, a presentation on
how they would launch a campaign to build buzz for a
“They wanted to see how quickly we could respond
to something, and how well and creatively we could do
it,” Boukassi explained.
Finalists also had dinner with guests that included
top management from sponsors Hill & Knowlton Public
Relations and the editor of PRWeek.
“That was pretty scary,” recalled Boukassi.
“The awards are really sought-after and really
respected, so that says a lot for us,” she added.
The winner receives $5,000 and a paid internship at
a top PR agency in New York City, second place receives
$3,000 and a paid internship, and the other finalists
Pieraccini, who described Andrews and Boukassi as “both
hard workers and goal-oriented,” also credited
Ron Graeff of the broadcasting faculty. One of Graeff’s
classes videotaped her students and asked questions
about their presentations.
“He also let them come to his office and do their
reporter pitch, designed to get a reporter to do a story
for your client as part of the competition” and
offered constructive feedback, Pieraccini added.
However they place later this month, both students have
savored the experience and learned about themselves.
“It definitely made me realize I want to do public
relations because it was what I enjoy doing,”
“It was so much fun,” added Boukassi, who
also said it reaffirmed her interest in PR. “It
showed me I could do it.”
—Tim Nekritz M ’05
To March 2007 E-Newsletter