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By Lizzy Fletcher

Since 2015, three University of Maryland (UMD) public relations students have made the top five shortlist of finalists for the PRWeek Student of the Year Award. This year, PRWeek selected UMD communication major Patricia Carmona ’17 as the winner, making her the first UMD student ever to receive the honor. The award was announced on March 16, 2017 in New York at the PRWeek Awards ceremony.

Carmona is specializing in public relations with a minor in Spanish, all in UMD’s College of Arts and Humanities. She has interned for Maryland Athletics, the Washington Redskins and Lagardere Sports, New York, and is currently working part time for the Redskins, where she will assume a full-time position as corporate communications manager immediately upon graduation. She’s also the current president of UMD’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and previously served as treasurer for three years.  

University communication professor Susan Simon, also the faculty advisor for PRSSA, introduces the PRWeek competition to her students in COMM483: Senior Seminar in Public Relations and encourages students to enter.

“Each COMM483 class works with an outside client, so students have the opportunity to create and implement a PR plan beyond the classroom,” says Simon. “Tish is a creative, dynamic student who engages with all the academic and professional opportunities available to her as a public relations student at UMD.”

This year, finalists were required to create a new spokesfigure for Swedish furniture retailer IKEA along with a public relations campaign to unveil the spokesfigure to the U.S. public. The judges were impressed by Carmona’s non-human character named Erik, who looks like parts of IKEA furniture consumers can assemble. They were also impressed with her campaign built around the American dream.

"It was fun to develop a campaign for IKEA as a part of a midterm for my senior seminar PR course,” Carmona said. “This was one of those class assignments that felt applicable to the real world, and I know I will be able to use what I learned from Professor Simon's course to propel my public relations career in the future."

According to PRWeek, “The PRWeek Awards celebrate the very best corporate, agency, nonprofit and education teams and the work they produced during the awards' entry period. Each award is highly coveted and the competition to claim them is intense.”

“I am so honored and grateful to be the first PRWeek Student of the Year from the University of Maryland,” Carmona said. “I've watched UMD PR students land amazing internships, be awarded as top five finalists for the PRWeek Awards and move onto their dream jobs after graduating, but I never pictured that I would be just like them my senior year. I am honored and proud to represent the PR track here, and I know this award is just as much mine as it is my professors' over the years."