Public relations student receives prestigious award, internship

Jessica Colburn missed the first call from the prestigious Daniel J. Edelman/Public Relations Student Society of America. When they reached out to her a second time, she learned she was the 2013 winner of their Award for Outstanding Public Relations Student.

“I was freaking out, because I didn’t even know what they were trying to tell me,” Colburn, a senior majoring in public relations, said.

The second call, which included the big announcement, left her speechless but excited.

“I was in shock, and the rest of the day was just a haze,” Colburn said. “Everybody was so happy for me and supportive, and I was still so shocked that I didn’t even get to really think about it until the next day.”

The national award is offered annually to PRSSA members who display leadership, have public relations-related achievement and activities, a digital presence and recommendations from public relations faculty and/or industry professionals.

Colburn started her college career at Samford University as a nursing student. She explored the medical field her freshman year, and quickly learned nursing wasn’t for her. Still determined to help people, Colburn took her mom’s advice to pursue an occupation in communications. She later gained an interest in public relations, and transferred to The University of Alabama to pursue it.

“I am so thankful that I made that jump, and took that opportunity,” Colburn said.

Winners receive $2500 and a three-month internship in one of the Edelman’s U.S. offices. Edelman, which has 66 global offices, is the world’s largest public relations firm, according to the company’s website.

Colburn doesn’t know all the details of the internship, but she hopes to intern in the San Francisco Bay Area. She said she would like to work for the health and wellness department located in the company’s San Francisco office.

“Their internships are like a pre-job interview for three months. They are trying to decide what you are good at, and where you would fit in their office,” Colburn said. “At the end of the three months, hopefully I will get a full-time job.”

Joseph Phelps, chair of the department of advertising and public relations, wrote one of the letters of recommendation that lead to Colburn’s win.

“I’ve been able to observe all the great things she’s been doing in the department,” Phelps said. “It’s a great honor for Jessica. We feel extremely proud for her.”

Colburn holds various leadership roles of campus organizations, including marketing director, editor, and writer for Platform Magazine, film director for Capstone Agency and communications director for the Student Government Association.

Capstone Agency advisor Teri Henley also wrote a letter of recommendation for Colburn. She worked with Colburn on projects for Capstone and the 2012 Bateman Team, which won a national Honorable Mention.

“She may still technically be a student, but she’s operating like a professional,” Colburn said. “I’m excited to see what she’s going to do with her future, because I know she’s going to be one of those professionals that we look back and be very proud that she was one of our grads.”

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