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College of Media students and faculty recognized at 2019 PRSA Crystal Awards Gala

Rita and Geah at the PRSA Crystal Awards

West Virginia University Reed College of Media faculty members and students received several honors at this year’s Public Relations Society of America West Virginia Chapter Awards Gala.

Associate Professor Rita Colistra, Ph.D., was named the 2019 PRSA-WV Practitioner of the Year, and Associate Professor Geah Pressgrove, Ph.D., was named the 2019 PRSA-WV Public Relations Educator of the Year. Additionally, the WVU chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America was named the Chapter of the Year for the third consecutive time.

Colistra was nominated for her work as the principal investigator and project director of BrandJRNY, a grant- and donor- funded community branding initiative launched by the College of Media in 2015. This past year, students in specialized upper-level strategic communications courses developed an integrated communications campaign for the community of Pineville, West Virginia. Past community partners included Matewan, Grafton and Whitesville. During her time teaching at the College, Colistra and her students have developed nearly 20 strategic communications campaigns for communities and organizations in West Virginia.

Pressgrove joined the College of Media faculty in 2013 after more than 15 years working for professional agencies. She brings that experience into her capstone courses, where students create marketing campaigns for nonprofit organizations. In recent years, this course has culminated with CreateAthon, a 24-hour creative blitz where teams of students work with professional mentors to produce a myriad of marketing and communications deliverables. With Pressgrove’s guidance, WVU became a national CreateAthon partner in 2016. Pressgrove also has served as faculty adviser for the award-winning WVU PRSSA Chapter for the past five years. Under her leadership, the Chapter has hosted countless speakers and recently organized the first PRSSA regional conference at WVU.

“Rita and Geah are two of the cornerstones of our public relations program and more than deserving of these accolades,” said College of Media Dean Diana Martinelli. “They are both incredibly dedicated to their students, their communities and the communications profession.”

During the gala, which was held in Morgantown for the first time this year, College of Media students were honored for their outstanding campaigns and projects, receiving five Crystal Awards and three Honorable Mentions. The Crystal Award is the top prize in each of the Association’s award categories and honors the most exceptional communications and public relations work in West Virginia.

Associate Professor Rita Colistra’s BrandJRNY students won the following awards:

  • Crystal Award - External Communications Campaign for BrandJRNY’s Pineville Branding Campaign
  • Crystal Award - Integrated Communications Campaign for BrandJRNY’s Town of Pineville Branding Campaign
  • Crystal Award for Video - BrandJRNY’s Town of Pineville Brand Launch Video
  • Crystal Award - Single-issue Print Publication for BrandJRNY’s Town of Pineville Brand Guide
  • Honorable Mention - Research/Evaluation for BrandJRNY’s Town of Pineville Branding Research
  • Honorable Mention - Collateral for the BrandJRNY’s Pineville Promotional Map
  • Honorable Mention  - Social Media for BrandJRNY’s Social Media Training

In addition to being named the chapter of the year, WVU PRSSA won a Crystal Award for best blog in the student blog category, and College of Media alumna Blaithe Tarley (BSJ, 2018) was named the West Virginia Young Professional of the Year. 

“Our students and faculty are passionate about the work they’re doing, which leads to results that make a difference in both our communities and in their own professional growth,” Martinelli said.­­ “I’m thrilled their work has been recognized externally among the best in the state.”