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AFF multicultural students

Public relations majors earn national recognition

Posted February 21, 2017
By Emily Swan, first year student pursuing a master's degree in mass communication
Photo: (l to r) Alexis Monroe and Chardonnay Ismail


School of Journalism and Mass Communications alumna Chardonnay Ismail and senior Alexis Monroe were recognized by the American Advertising Federation as two of the nation's Most Promising Multicultural Students at a four-day event in New York City, Feburary 13-16. 

AAF's Most Promising Multicultural Students program is the premier advertising industry award program to recognize and recruit outstanding minority college graduates in the areas of advertising, marketing, media and communications.

Chardonnay Ismail

While pursuing her degree in public relations, Ismail served as president of the USC Association of Black Journalists (2015-2016) and was a member of the National Honor Society for Journalism and Mass Communications.

Ismail was highly involved on campus, working as the social media editorial intern with the undergraduate admissions office and as a community ambassador for off-campus student services. She did internships with the nonprofit organization God’s Storehouse and with Richland County Government.

Ismail was recommended for the MPMS award by Bonnie Drewniany, USC advertising sequence director and Student Advertising Federation advisor.

“Chardonnay is a go-getter who puts what she has learned in the classroom into action,” Drewniany said in her recommendation letter, highly impressed by Ismail’s accolades and achievements.

Drewniany was particularly impressed with Ismail’s work with the Richland County Government, tackling press conferences during a particularly tumultuous time in South Carolina’s history.

“As community relations Intern for the Richland County Government, Chardonnay helped organize press conferences as our state experienced the devastating 1,000-year flood in 2015,” Drewniany said. “Her contribution was so impressive that she won the Hugh Munn Award, named after a former colleague who headed the public relations division of South Carolina’s Law Enforcement Division.”

Chardonnay graduated in December 2016. She is now the coordinator for social media marketing for USC undergraduate admissions. 

Alexis Monroe

Current SJMC senior Monroe is also pursuing a degree in public relations, serves as the current president of the Association of Black Journalists and is the executive director of the CHICKS Conference.

She is also currently one of five members of USC’s Bateman Case Study Competition team, tasked with creating and implementing a national campaign for a client.  This year, Monroe and her fellow teammates are creating a campaign to impact mental health culture in the United States.

Monroe has held various internships in Columbia — working with Media Frenzy Global, Shazzy Fitness and acting as a Mayor’s Fellow with the City of Columbia.

Instructor Ernie Grigg, who taught Monroe in one of his public relations classes, recommended her for the MPMS award.

“I found her  engaging and inquisitive — always seizing the opportunity to get to the heart of an answer,” he said in his letter of recommendation.

Thoroughly impressed with her strategic thinking and writing skills, Grigg singled her out as one of the best students in his class.

“Her business instincts are first rate, and her writing skills are exceptional,” he said. “Because of her strong grasp of the basics of strategic communication, she knows how to go the extra step to turn an average campaign into a truly exceptional program.”

Grigg praises her for her professionalism and her drive, confident that she will have an exceptionally promising career.

“Not only do I think she would be successful, but I would hire her myself if given the opportunity,” he said.

After graduation in May, Monroe hopes to work as an assistant account executive in a public relations or advertising agency. 


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Emily Swan

Emily Swan is a graduate student from Columbia, South Carolina, pursuing her master’s degree in mass communication. Her interests include entertainment journalism, nonprofit public relations and health communication.