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Communication Students Excelled at the Southeast Journalism Conference

March 12, 2019 | Hannah Gainer, CASSH Communicaitons Assistant |

Students hold award certificates.
Communication students were recognized for accomplishments during the 2019 SEJC.

This spring, UWF Communication students were recognized for excellence in journalism.

At the end of January, four students represented UWF at the American Journalism Historians Association’s Southeast Symposium in Panama City Beach, FL. This was the first time UWF participated. The symposium featured student research in media history.

In February, four UWF Communication majors and a communication assistant professor were recognized at the 2019 Southeast Journalism Conference (SEJC), which took place February 14-16.  The students, who participated in the conference competitions, placed in sports reporting, opinion writing and public relations.

This year’s conference was held in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Tyler Wood, editor-in-chief for The Voyager, won his first award that placed him fifth in sports reporting for the Best of the South 2018 off-site competition. Wood also took second place in the 2019 On-Site Journalism Championships for his work, which covered a women’s basketball game at Middle Tennessee State University.


“It was nice to be recognized among so many talented journalists from 30 or more colleges from the Southeast, said Wood. “There's a lot of work that goes into what we do, so to be there and to see all the hard work recognized, it feels pretty good.”


UWF seniors Bailey Smith and Alexis Zanca finished third in the 2019 On-site Public Relations Championships for their campaign, which featured fictional Grammy-winning country artists’ charity music tour. Smith and Zanca had to complete a full PR campaign in two hours, which would normally take a full semester to complete in conjunction with an academic course.

“My heart was racing there toward the end right before we submitted our work. ‘How do you put an entire semester’s worth of work into two hours?’ It was a good experience though and I’m proud of myself and Alexis, as well as our communication professors for being such great teachers and giving me the information to put this all together and win an award for it,” said Smith.

UWF senior Mike Zdunich placed eighth in opinion writing for the Best of the South 2018 off-site competition, to give UWF four placements in the SEJC 2019 competition.

According to SEJC, the purpose of the SEJC “Best of the South” contest is to function as a journalism teaching-tool, as well as a competition. All entries are given a rating, and judges are encouraged to provide comments and professional advice. The ratings and commentaries are given to each school’s faculty delegate to distribute to his or her students who enter, regardless of whether their entry won top recognition.

The on-site competition puts student journalists’ talent to the test in competitions at the conference and awards individuals certificates and award points for the school teams that accumulate to recognize one team as the Journalism Champions.

The three-day conference included an on-site competition, break-out sessions with industry professionals, and an awards banquet. All of the honorees were recognized.

Dr. Willie Tubbs, assistant professor of communication and journalism advisor, said the UWF Department of Communication is fortunate to have an assortment of skills to represent the University in a competition, which featured nearly 40 schools from the Southeast.


“I was really pleased that on this trip we got to see a collection of students with a diverse array of talents all be recognized for the excellent work that they’ve done,” said Tubbs. “Speaking as a faculty member, we know and believe that we have great students. It’s an honor and humbling for me to have our students recognized among their peers.”


This year, Tubbs was unanimously elected as the SEJC’s vice president and will serve a two-year term to help coordinate and organize future SEJC events.

“I was honored to be chosen by my colleagues to serve in this role, but the actual selections process was fairly uninteresting. We needed a new VP, I raised my hand and said I'd be willing to serve, and the other faculty approved me,” said Tubbs. “I am just happy I can do something to help this wonderful organization that provides students a chance to showcase their talents.”

The University of Southern Mississippi will host the Southeast Journalism Conference in February 2020 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.