UWA rounded up its star Integrated Marketing Communications majors on Feb. 20 and brought them to the Southeast Journalism Conference in Lafayette, La. for a weekend of panels, presentations, local cuisine, and fierce competition. The following Saturday, Feb. 22, these bright students came back to Livingston with seven enviable awards in tow.

Although the event was hosted by the University of Louisiana at Layayette, some had to hit the ground running when they arrived at the Hilton on the first evening. Those competing in the entertainment writing and photography categories stayed busy throughout the opening night reception, breaking out their notepads and cameras in hopes of capturing musical guests The Lafayette Devils in a way that would make them stand out among the judges. Meanwhile, sportswriting and sports photography competitors went to the nearby Cajundome to cover UL Lafayette’s basketball game against Troy and the news conference that followed.

After a night of sleep—doubtlessly nervous sleep for some—the conference continued on Friday at 9:00 a.m. with a selection of panel discussions to attend before getting back to the onsite competitions. These panels covered a wide range of topics, from a discourse on the relevance of still photography in the age of digital video to a case study of the nationally-covered murder of an LU Lafayette student in 2012. Speakers included a long list of local professional news writers, anchors, editors, photographers and more.

The rest of the day included job fairs, lunches, a movie presentation, but heaviest on the minds of participating students were the onsite competitions that took place on LU’s campus in the early afternoon.

Students of journalism from 35 schools across the southeastern U.S. came to Lafayette to stack their talents against the rest in categories like news writing, page layout, TV news reporting, current events and public relations. Overall, 440 entries were submitted in 15 different categories.

However, UWA’s journalists-in-training would have to wait a little longer before their work could be judged. Friday night was set aside for the Best of the South Awards Banquet, a separate ceremony that acknowledges the work put into the students’ respective schools, such as contributing to a school paper or news program.

Before the winners were announced, Southern Regional Correspondent for NPR Debbie Elliott spoke to the assembly about her coverage of the BP oil spill and her line of work in general. After Elliot’s surprisingly apolitical presentation, the time had finally come to announce the “Best of the South.”

To say that UWA’s IMC majors were pleased with the results would be an understatement.

“It felt incredible but very shocking,” Senior Shelby Campbell, who won the First Place Award for Best Multimedia Journalist.

“I would have never expected to get first place in the entire southeastern conference. I was so honored.”

Following another host of panels on Saturday and before the winners of the onsite competition were announced, John Georges, publisher of The Advocate of Baton Rouge, told the audience about how he bought the daily paper despite warnings to not invest in a print publication. “You guys have nothing to worry about,” he said in reference to the future of journalism. Encouraging words from a daring guy.

UWA’s own received another first place award following Georges’ lecture. Seniors Caleb Walters, Hayley Taylor, and Campbell earned the top spot as a team in the category of Public Relations.

After every award was given out, the emcee offered Theodore Roosevelt’s words to those who may have felt defeated: “It is not the critic that matters ….”

“I didn’t go to SEJC with the mindset of having to win an award,” said Campbell, “but I am honored to have done so. To me, SEJC is about so much more than that. It is a bonding experience for journalism students and a place to enjoy yourself doing what you do best.”

UWA is extremely fortunate to have the IMC program that propels these students above and beyond. Freshman Callie Murphy won Third Place in Best Television News Reporter onsite competition, Amanda Nolin’s graphic design and layout prowess earned her Sixth Place in Best Advertising Staff Member and Hannah Riley won Sixth Place in Best Television News Feature Reporting for her excellent work on Tiger Pause.

Beating out some much larger universities, Tiger Pause received Second Place in Best College Video News Program, and muse won Ninth Place in Best College Newspaper Site, proving once and for all that uwamuse.com is better than the average college newspaper site.

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