By Jackson DeMos
Undergraduate student Stephen Zelezny (Public Relations, ’13) said he was shocked when he found out he won the $5,000 grand prize in the Arthur W. Page Society's annual Student Case Study Competition.
The Page Society received more than 100 entries from students around the country, but Zelezny’s detailed examination earned him the top prize. He analyzed JetBlue's customer issues following the infamous incident in which a pilot had to be subdued by passengers mid-flight.
Zelezny, who grew up in Fresno, Calif. and graduated valedictorian from Buchanan high School, used the Strategic Planning Model that is taught to all Public Relations students at USC Annenberg. He prepared a competitive analysis and a detailed study of both the airline and its PR troubles.
“I think the best part about this award is that I'll have my published case study on the Arthur Page Society website for anyone to view,” he said. “This includes potential employers and students from across the country who are interested in the subject matter. Just to have tangible, published work is the best part about it. I hope it provides value to the communication field.”
The Page Society representative said the standards for this competition are extremely high: "We look for professional quality plans that reflect great critical thinking."
The Page Society requires the student to work with a mentor throughout the process. Public Relations Professor and mentor Jennifer Floto said she was "over the moon” when she received the call from the Page Society informing her about Zelezny’s award.
“This is such an honor, especially for an undergraduate student,” said Floto, who won USC’s 2012 Mellon Mentoring Award. “Stephen has done the whole school proud."
Zelezny expressed his gratitude for Floto’s help throughout the process.
“None of this is possible without the mentorship of Professor Floto and her belief in me to tackle this project with nothing less than 100 percent of my effort,” he said.
In addition to the $5,000 prize, Zelezny won a trip to an exclusive spring seminar at the Page Society in New York City where he will receive his accolades at an awards banquet. He will be joined by Jerry Swerling, director of Public Relations Studies at USC Annenberg and a recently named member of the Page Society's board of directors.
Zelezny said this semester has shown him that public service may be his calling.
“Right now, though, I'm just taking one day at a time and ensuring I reap every last benefit I can from this university heading into graduation this May,” he said, adding that he couldn’t imagine attending any other university than USC.
“It was truly the best fit. And I couldn't thank the Annenberg School enough for the resources it's provided me over these past few short years — the advisors, professors, events, and the skills they embed in its students from the get-go,” he said. “Just walking through the Annenberg lobby gives you a glimpse of what this school is all about — taking action. The communication/PR/journalism field desperately needs problem-solving innovators that aren't afraid to ask the tough questions, to advocate for worthy causes, and above all, to lead. I found there's no better place to find that than right here on this campus, in the heart of it all.”
The Arthur W. Page Society is the most prestigious professional association for senior public relations and corporate communications executives who seek to enrich and strengthen their profession.