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Student PR firm gets top award

Posted on 11.06.2013

The University of Indianapolis student-run public relations firm, Top Dog, was named No. 1 in the nation by the Public Relations Student Society of America. Five Top Dog student employees and Associate Professor of Communication and University Distinguished Professor of Service Learning Rebecca Deemer received the award on Oct. 28 during a national convention in Philadelphia for public relations professionals and students.
Senior communication major and Top Dog Firm Director Jenna Whalen said that going up on the platform to receive the award was incredibly exciting.
“They had a dinner for us on Monday night, and that award was one of the last ones. So I could barely pay attention throughout, like while they were giving the rest of the awards, just because I was so nervous,” she said. “When they called our name, I think I kind of screamed a little bit just because I was so excited.”
According to Whalen, this is not the first time that Top Dog, which serves as a public relations firm for Indianapolis nonprofits, has won the award, but there is a rule that a firm cannot reapply until a year after winning.
Deemer said that her students are very proud of their work, but it is validating for them to see that others also respect it.
“My students often allude to the fact that we’re small but mighty.  And I like that a lot, because I think that it really shows the character of the type of students that come to UIndy,” she said. “I mean, you all come here knowing that we might not have the largest institution, but you’ll get that personal attention and you’ll get those professors who will do as much as they can to make sure you succeed.”
According to Whalen, studying at UIndy has helped her stand out from those who studied at other universities, and she notices this when she gets to attend conventions.
“In one of the sessions, the presenter asked, ‘Who here knows what a SWOT analysis is and who has ever done one before?’ All of the UIndy people raised their hands, because that’s such a basic thing we learn from the beginning in Top Dog,” she said. “And there were some schools there who were like, ‘We’ve never even heard of that.’”
Senior communication major Jenn Meadows,  president of the UIndy PRSSA chapter, said that although she was not able to attend the convention, she was just as excited when she heard the news. She said that she teared up a little bit, then celebrated with a piece of cheesecake and called the Top Dog firm director from last year,  recent alumna Christi Larimer-Eden, to thank her for all her hard work.
“Top Dog shaped me into who I am professionally,” Meadows said. “It’s nice being No. 1, but the work we do, the skills we learn and how our alums perform in the professional world are a real indicator of Top Dog’s success that happens every single day.”
Whalen said that she also felt grateful to Larimer-Eden, who was the Top Dog firm director last year. She said that everything they submitted for the award had happened under Larimer-Eden’s watch.
However, Deemer said that all students and alumni who have helped shape the program over the years are responsible for its success.
“The students try as much as they can to do very practical things that help them in the long run become a better professional,” she said. “But at the same time, they’re giving to their community of their services and their abilities.”
According to Whalen, winning this award affirms that Top Dog does high-quality work and is able to compete with other universities’ programs.
“We put so much hard work into it, and we do it because we love it. But it’s also nice to kind of realize that what we’re doing is being recognized and we are doing the right things,” she said. “It makes the couple of nights that I sat up in Top Dog crying at like 4 a.m. worth it.”


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