A headshot of Kathleen McManus

PRWeek Names UA Senior Outstanding Student

A headshot of Kathleen McManus
Kathleen McManus

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – PRWeek has named University of Alabama senior Kathleen McManus its 2021 Outstanding Student.

McManus, of Palatine, Illinois, is the third student from UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences to win the award in the past four years. The honor recognizes an undergraduate student for their outstanding display of a variety of public relations skills.

“I’m very honored to have been selected for the award,” McManus said. “It is an incredible way to round out my time here at the Capstone and a true reflection of the exceptional education and experiences that the college and university provide its students.”

This year’s competition required students to create a comprehensive campaign to launch a new sneaker during fashion week. McManus’ campaign, entitled #EveryShoeEveryStyle, centered around launching a recyclable sneaker via a virtual fashion show. The campaign featured a variety of tactics including the use of influencers and strategic partnerships with retail brands.

“Because fashion week looks different in the virtual environment and consumer shopping habits have changed in the past year, I dedicated a significant amount of time to research,” said McManus. “This sparked ideas for how a brand could utilize the digital space to its advantage and what kind of shoe consumers would be seeking to purchase in this season. A key part of my campaign was identifying the insights in my research and using that to guide the strategies and tactics that would connect consumers.”

McManus credits much of her success to the guidance she received from faculty within UA’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations as she prepared her campaign.

“I was fortunate to have the support of many mentors and faculty members when putting together the campaign,” McManus said. “From brainstorming initial ideas to final read-throughs, it was a true testament to the supportive mentorship fostered in the College.”

Additionally, the advertising and public relations program was named a top-five finalist for Outstanding Education Program during the PRWeek Awards — the tenth time the program has been awarded this honor. The four other finalists for this year’s award included DePaul University, Morgan State University, NYU School of Professional Studies and the University of Florida.

The judging criteria for Outstanding Education Program submissions consider each program’s faculty contributions to public relations in teaching, research and service to the industry, and the program’s initiatives in connecting current and former students to the public relations industry in three areas: job and internship placements, speakers and events, and consulting and experiential learning.

“The APR program’s tenure as a top-five program is representative of the dedication and hard work displayed by all members of the department,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. “Our faculty and staff work diligently to develop an enriching curriculum and educational opportunities for our students and those efforts continue to set our academic program apart.”

Entries for the PRWeek Awards are reviewed and decided upon by a panel of judges comprised of public relations professionals and educators from agency, corporate, government and nonprofit sectors.


Anna Claire Toxey, UA College of Communication and Information Sciences, actoxey@ua.edu