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Graduate student honored with diversity award

Posted June 14, 2017

School of Journalism and Mass Communications graduate student Denetra Walker is a recipient of the Inez Kaiser Graduate Student of Color Award by the Public Relations Division of the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Walker, a second-year Master of Arts student, will receive a free one-year membership to AEJMC and the Public Relations Division as well as a $1,260 award for travel and lodging at the AEJMC national conference in Chicago this August. In addition, she will be assigned a Public Relations Division mentor and take part in the Division’s social, business meeting, and other recommended sessions.

In addition to her first-year coursework, Walker served as the project manager for CreateAthon@USC and worked on research projects with advertising and public relations professors. 

Before starting the graduate program, Walker worked in television news for more than 10 years in Texas, Nevada, New York, Georgia and South Carolina.  She worked in a variety of positions, including assistant news director, executive producer and internship coordinator.  During her tenure at WIS News 10, she led the team through countless historic events including the Charleston church shooting, the Confederate flag removal and the 1000-year flood of 2015.

Walker earned several professional awards including the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas Spot News award and the Associated Press Second Place award for Best Newscast. Walker was also veteran journalist Dan Rather’s intern where she spent time in CBS News in New York working on “60 Minutes," “48 Hours” and “CBS Evening News.”

Walker says her experience in television news management as a woman of color taught her the importance of diversity in the profession. “I brought fresh new ideas and perspectives every day and I built great connections with people,” she said. “My goal is to continue this path within academia and bring the same fresh perspective of real-world experience into the classroom.”

For nearly a decade, the Public Relations Division of AEJMC has worked to increase diversity in the division through the Inez Kaiser awards, which honor Kaiser, the first African-American woman to be a member of the Public Relations Society of America and to head a public relations agency with national clients. The award funded through a PRSA grant, encourages academic career aspirations and broadens diversity within the Public Relations Division of AEJMC.

Walker says she was impressed by Inez Kaiser’s accomplishments in public relations, business, education and journalism and looks forward to the many opportunities her award presents. 

“Ms. Kaiser broke down barriers and clearly did not take ‘no’ or ‘can’t’ as the final answer,” Walker said. “We need more people like her to bring diversity and change into the profession and academic environment," she said.

Walker plans to continue to mentor students and inspire them to achieve whatever goals they aspire to reach, noting she has always had great mentors along her path.

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