Student wins public relations award

Junior Madi Winkler was surprised at a conference when she won the title of 2016 Michael K. Simmons Student of the Year, along with two awards of excellence and an award of merit.

Winkler attended the 2017 Public Relations Council of Alabama State Conference April 3 in Birmingham with UNA PRide.

UNA PRide, is the student public relations organization on campus.

One of her awards of excellence was for her work on a hypothetical campaign regarding MySpace for one of her classes.

Winkler said the award was for a group project, so the entire group went on stage to accept the award.

Winkler also won an award for her writing skills.

“My other award of excellence was for my feature story on Jake Elliff from last semester,” Winkler said. “I got an award of merit for one of my editorial pieces for the Flor-Ala.”

She said winning these awards was unexpected.

“I was definitely shocked whenever the state president called me up on stage to receive the award,” she said. “She hugged me, and then I promptly said, ‘I’m going to throw up,’ and then the MC announced that I felt like I was going to throw up, so that was incredibly embarrassing.

“I was shaking, nervous and just not expecting it at all because the students in PRCA, the people that were competing for this award, I felt like were the best of the best, and I didn’t feel like I was on that level. So, it was a good surprise.”

She said she did not anticipate the amount of work it took to apply for the 2016 Michael K. Simmons Student of the Year Award.

“There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into (the Student of the Year application)” she said. “It ended up being 24 pages worth of material.”

She said it was exciting to see the work she does for The Flor-Ala translate into the field she is excited about.

“UNA PRide was sort of the gateway to this because when I was elected president as a sophomore, I feel like there was a whole new world of experience that opened for me,” Winkler said.

Senior Olivia George said she met Winkler when they began public relations classes together.

“Madi is spunky, quick-witted, very hard-working and determined,” George said. “As PRide president, she was a great leader. She is always there to lend a hand or a shoulder to cry on. She loves learning to dance, hates being late to anything, and I don’t think she can go a day without making multiple witty puns.”

Winkler said she would not have made it this far without the professors and faculty in the Department of Communications pushing her.

“We have some of the best faculty and staff in the world because it’s obvious they care about what they do,” Winkler said. “They care about us as students — not just as students — but us as people. They want to see us succeed. It’s like we’re their kids.

“When you get people that believe in you, you feel like you can do anything. My parents and grandparents have been more than supportive of my hopes and my dreams, and it feels good to make them proud.”

She said after these accomplishments she will take a step back to focus on her grades and upcoming internship. She said she plans to jump into the public relations field as soon as she graduates.

“The job in public relations is not people, it’ storytelling,” she said. “Whatever company you’re with, whatever thing you’re doing, you’re telling a story about it.”

Beth Garfrerick, assistant professor in the Department of Communications, said Winkler is a very strong writer.

“She is a go-getter who has a good sense of the profession,c and I feel she’ll succeed in her future,” she said. “She is the type of student that professors would be proud to write a reference letter for.”

Editors Note: Madi Winkler is the Social Media Coordinator for The Flor-Ala.