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ASU public relations faculty, students win honors

June 06, 2013

Associate professor Fran Matera, director of the Public Relations Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, was recognized this spring as one of Arizona State University’s outstanding faculty members.

Matera was one of 24 ASU faculty members nominated by students and peers for the 2013 ASU Sun Devil Family Association Professor of the Year Award. The award spotlights the contributions of tenured faculty who exemplify a passion for teaching, and who excel in both undergraduate mentorship and in their areas of research. It was Matera’s second nomination in three years.

As director of the Public Relations Lab, Matera supervises advanced undergraduate students who develop campaigns and strategies for clients in a professional public relations setting. This year, the lab was the recipient of a prestigious Woodside Sustained Community Service Award.

The $6,000 Woodside Award supported the creation of a public information campaign for the Arizona Bridge to Independent Living and Phoenix’s Virginia G. Piper Sports & Fitness Center for persons with disabilities. The campaign centered on ways to empower disabled youth in the Phoenix area as part of ABIL’s mission to advocate for personal responsibility by, and for people with disabilities as a means to independence. 

Students created a 60-second public service announcement for English and Spanish audiences and hosted a virtual open house for special education educators from across the state. Also as part of the campaign, Matera and her students developed a logo, banners, online media kit and other promotional tools for a series of free adaptive youth sports clinics in wheelchair basketball and power soccer that started in May and will continue through July.

Matera said a team of “very talented” students spent the semester researching and creating the campaign. Such projects put students in an intensive learning environment and give them the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in their classes to a real-world project, she said.

Other honors that Matera’s students received this year include:

• The Public Relations Lab was selected as a finalist in the PR News' Platinum PR Awards in the public affairs category for its “21 or Too Young” campaign for the Tempe Coalition. The ongoing campaign by the city of Tempe focuses on reducing underage drug and alcohol use. The campaign also won a Copper Anvil Award for Public Service from the Phoenix Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

• Another campaign, “Sealed Sweets: Uniquely Sweet Gifts," won an Accolade Award of Merit for creativity/originality and sales/branding. The national competition recognizes filmmakers, television producers, videographers and new media creators who demonstrate exceptional achievement in craft and creativity. Undiscovered and first-time producers are often recognized.

The Cronkite Public Relations Lab is one of the school's immersive capstone programs that provide students professional-level experiences in their chosen fields. The lab functions like a PR agency, with students serving in roles that mirror those in a professional setting while they develop campaigns and strategies for real clients. Services include strategic communication plans and campaigns, survey research, branding, messaging, website analysis/creation, commercials and public service announcements, social media development, event planning and promotion, and corporate communications.

“The creative energy we see every day in the Cronkite Public Relations Lab from Dr. Matera and her students is inspiring, and the work they produce is truly remarkable,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “Under Fran’s leadership, the PR Lab has become one of the signature programs of Cronkite.”