UNA Faculty and Students Honor Women Journalists

The University of North Alabama and the Shoals area were well represented at the 35th anniversary celebration of the founding of Alabama Media Professionals (Alabama Media Women), held April 18 in Birmingham at The Club. Tuscumbia's Nelle Bigbee joined other media women to charter Alabama Press Women, an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women, in 1959, but newspaper publishers viewed this as a unionization effort and potential members feared for their jobs. The group became inactive in 1961. Fast forward to 1980. Some University of Alabama professors called on their recent graduates (including UNA Assistant Professor Beth Garfrerick) and other professionals to charter Alabama Media Women. Marian Huttenstine was the driving force in getting many of her recent UA grads in the group. Joining Dr. Garfrerick among "Marian's Minions" were Jane Newton Henry, Suzanne Dent, and Virginia Gilbert Loftin, who have all moved on to key journalism and/or public relations/freelance positions. Dr. Garfrerick was among the first officers, and served as AMW president from 1981-84. Joining the organization from the Shoals were several TimesDaily reporters including Marci Elliott, Myra Staggs, Judy Hood, Kathy Jernigan, Irene Page, Sheila Thompson, Judy Sullivan and Mary Ann Kirkby. Another early member was UNA’s first journalism instructor, Bobbie Hurt. The Department of Communications offers a memorial scholarship to female students bearing her name. Another Shoals area AMW claim to fame: longtime WHNT-TV Shoals Bureau Chief Bill Erwin was the organization's first male member (joined in 1981). Joining Dr. Garfrerick for the anniversary celebration were UNA Flor-Ala editors Anna Grace Usery, Kali Daniel and Jasmine Fleming.

Photo 1: Celebrating Alabama women journalists past, present and future are (l to r) Jasmine Fleming, Kali Daniel, Dr. Beth Garfrerick and Anna Grace Usery.

Photo 2: Former UNA journalism instructor Bobbie Hurt (on screen, far right) was honored among other AMW members who have passed away since the organization's founding in 1980.

UNA PRIDE Members Honor Graduating Public Relations Students

PR Professors Lisa Darnell and Beth Garfrerick joined with UNA PRIDE members Wednesday night, April 22, at Fiesta in Seven Points for a dinner to honor this semester's graduating PR majors. Congratulations to Elise Adkins, Elizabeth Brock, Lauren Butler, Ali Ferrell, KeKe Greer, Nichael Lyle, Skyler Mansell, Nikki Messer, Savannah McKinney, Undrea Randolph, Haley Schreiber, Samantha Schutzenhofer and Marcey Anne Sykes. Other PRIDE members joining the festivities were Abigail Ferris, Alex Hughes, Jessica Fowler, Austin Peacock and Kim Grissom. Savannah McKinney received the Eugene H. Balof Award as UNA's PR Student of the Year. Dr. Balof was the UNA Department of Communications Chair when a PR course was added to the curriculum. Savannah earlier received state recognition as Alabama's PR Student of the Year by the Public Relations Council of Alabama at its state convention in Montgomery.

Photo 1: UNA soon-to-be PR graduates pictured are (l to r) Lauren Butler, Skyler Mansell, Marcey Anne Sykes, Elizabeth Brock, Undrea Randolph, Samantha Schutzenhofer, Haley Schreiber, Savannah McKinney, KeKe Greer and Ali Ferrell.

Photo 2: Savannah McKinney receives the Eugene H. Balof PR Student of the Year Award from Dr. Beth Garfrerick at the April 22 UNA PRIDE dinner honoring PR graduating seniors. ​

UNA wins Audience Choice Award - Huntsville’s 48 Hour Film Project

The 48 Hour Film Project is a fast-paced and sleepless weekend in which teams of filmmakers make a movie—write, shoot, edit, and deliver—in just two days! While the concept is simple, the difficulty begins when the team, facing such tight constraints, must work together in order to succeed. Obviously, a great many fail, but if one can conquer the task, the sense of accomplishment is tremendous and our young UNA filmmakers certainly rose to the occasion. The film can be found here.

2015 Arts and Sciences Award Gala

The Department of Communications was well represented at the College of Arts and Sciences Awards Gala on April 7, 2015. Ms. Lisa Darnell was awarded the Outstanding Online Teaching Award. John Orman, Film and Digital Media Productions major, was awarded the Outstanding Senior in Performing and Fine Arts. Congratulations!

Photo 1: L to R: Dr. Chris Maynard, Associate Dean; Ms. Lisa Darnell; Dr. Carmen Burkhalter, Dean

Photo 2: John Orman, third from left

Dr. Beth Garfrerick named Public Relations Council of Alabama Educator of the Year


Senior Savannah McKinney named Public Relations Council of Alabama Student of the Year

Pic 1: PR faculty Lisa Darnell and Beth Garfrerick (PRCA Educator of the Year), senior PR major Savannah McKinney (PRCA Student of the Year), Dept. Of Communications Chair Greg Pitts.

Pic 2: UNA's PRCA Student Medallion Awards competition winners: (left to right) Lauren Butler, KeKoria Greer, Kristen Goode, Savannah McKinney, Jessica Fowler, Undrea Randolph, Kim Grissom, Alex Hughes, Michael Bramlett, and faculty Lisa Darnell, Beth Garfrerick. Not pictured: Marcey Anne Sykes, Krista Butler

The University of North Alabama Department of Communications was well represented at the state conference of the Public Relations Council of Alabama, held April 1-3 in Montgomery, as eleven public relations students and one faculty member earned top awards and recognitions.

Dr. Beth Garfrerick (gar-FRAIR-ik), assistant professor in public relations, was named the PRCA Educator of the Year. She was nominated for the award by the North Alabama Chapter of PRCA. Dr. Garfrerick had 20 years of industry experience in print journalism and public relations before entering the academic field. She worked as a daily newspaper reporter and PR practitioner in public relations in Florence, and PR agency and state association positions in Nashville. She earned undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Alabama. Her research interests include community journalism, media history and public relations.

Senior Savannah McKinney (May, 2015) was named PRCA’s Student of the Year. She received a framed certificate and a $1,000 cash award for this top honor. McKinney served as president of UNA’s PR student association, UNA PRIDE, in 2014. Savannah is a senior majoring in Public Relations, with a minor in Marketing. She has immersed herself in PRCA-related activities, while holding down several part-time jobs. This past summer she completed a very successful PR internship at the Tennessee Valley Art Association, which led to an offer of part-time employment. Her high academic achievement (3.94 GPA) has earned her acceptance into several academic honoraries, including the top academic honorary Phi Kappa Phi, the communications honorary, Lambda Pi Eta, and the freshman honoraries, Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma. She was accepted into the university’s Honors Program her freshman year and is completing a Capstone Project focusing on a branding campaign. In addition, she has consistently received Dean’s List recognition since Fall 2011.

Representing UNA at the conference were faculty members Lisa Darnell and Beth Garfrerick and PR students Kim Grissom, Kristen Goode, Kathryn Rogers and Jessica Fowler.

College and university public relations students from across the state were recognized in this year’s Student Medallions competition. UNA was among six universities/colleges submitted a total of 94 entries. (list of winners/categories)

UNA 2015 Public Relations Council of Alabama Education Awards


Dr. Beth Garfrerick                            Educator of the Year

Savannah McKinney                          Student of the Year


Student Medallion Awards


Category: PR Plans and Programs

Savannah McKinney                          Google+ Rebranding Campaign


Category: Publications/Writing

Kristen Goode                           Senate Approves Gender-Neutral Bathrooms Resolution             

Kim Grissom                             Storytelling: Numbers From 0 to Xfinity and Beyond


Category: Potpourri

Kim Grissom                             The Influence of Technology on Sleep Deprivation


Award of Merit

Category: Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities

Alex Hughes                              UNA Radio Sweeper


Category: Organizational Identity

KeKoria Greer                            Greer Campaign


Category: Potpourri

Savannah McKinney                   Tennessee Valley Art Association:  Direct Mail Invitation

Savannah McKinney                   TVAA Direct Mail Piece: Trees of Christmas Invitation

Category: PR Plans and Programs​

Elizabeth Brock                          Night Life Proposal


Award of Excellence

Category: Electronic Communication/Social Media Activities

KeKoria Greer                            UNA Panhellenic

Marcey Anne Sykes                    The Well, Florence, Ala. Video


Category: PR Plans and Programs

Michael Butler                            Streamline Proposal for Blockbuster

Lauren Butler                             UTCT Social Media Campaign

Savannah McKinney                    Alabama Music Hall of Fame Pageant Club Fundraising


Category: Publications/Writing

Savannah McKinney                     Tennessee Valley Art Association: Fall 2014 Member Newsletter

Savannah McKinney                     Tennessee Valley Art Association


Category: Potpourri

Krista Butler,                               Content Analysis of Media Framing on Sports Scandals

Undrea Randolph

Jessica Fowler                              Methods and Research Paper     ​

Dr. Elmasry Reports on Release of Australian Journalist


UNA's Assistant Professor of Communications, Dr. Mohamad H. Elmasry, was interviewed by Al Jazeera International on February 1 after the news broke that Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste (an Australian citizen) was released by the Egyptian government. Mr. Greste had been held in an Egyptian prison for more than one year.

We are fortunate to have this well-respected journalism scholar as a faculty member. Dr. Elmasry’s public comments on press rights in 2013 led to his decision to leave Egypt where he had been teaching at The American University in Cairo. Although he is a U.S. citizen, Dr. Elmasry could have found himself detained as part of the Egyptian government’s crackdown on journalists and academics. 

Dr. Elmasry has previously been interviewed as an expert on the situation in Egypt by Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera Arabic Egypt, BBC Television, BBC World Service Radio, CNN International, Swedish TV News (SVT), ABC Radio (Australia), A9 Television Istanbul, and other radio and television outlets. 


Department of Communications Receives Diversity Award for 2014

The Department of Communications is the proud recipient of the Academic Department - Diversity Award for 2014. This annual award from the University of North Alabama Office of Diversity and Institutional Equity recognizes significant achievements of faculty, staff, students, and academic or administrative units toward developing a more culturally diverse, competent, and inclusive university community. Up to two awards of $500 each are given each year in recognition of projects or practices that best reflect the implementation of campus diversity goals.
To read more about our diversity initiatives, see our nomination letter.

Stephanie Montgomery Receives Eleanor Gaunder Phi Kappa Phi Excellence in Teaching Award

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Confucius

Stephanie Montgomery definitely loves her job. She also believes that obstacles are going to arise, but seemingly insurmountable odds are possible to beat. Throughout her educational pursuit she discovered persistence in her fight against those who wanted her to fail, strength through positive role models who desired to see her succeed, and determination through the unconditional love of her children who inspired her to keep going when life got rough. This all culminated in the most rewarding job she has ever had, teaching. “I didn’t choose to teach because it was my career goal. As a single mother of three, I needed the income. I am an introvert and incredibly shy. I’ll never forget the first day and the first class I taught. I wore a suit, it was an uncomfortable suit; it felt like it was choking me at every seam. I was scared to death, which only made it that much more uncomfortable. But it was probably just my nerves. Funny thing is I was so nervous I forgot to turn the lights on. We went over the syllabus in an extremely dark room. I laugh about that now.” She knows that anxiety can often be a huge inhibiting factor for students. But, the ability to speak well and with confidence makes a huge difference in an individual’s career, regardless of the field one is in. “I know that in every student there is an amazing speaker; some are imprisoned by the walls of anxiety.” She believes that everyone faces obstacles that distract from personal goals and dreams. Some are anxiety, some are true monsters, and sometimes they are just life circumstances. It is easy to forget about goals for a while, but it is important to come back to them and when necessary, power through the roadblocks.

Stephanie has been on campus at the University of North Alabama for over twenty years. She moved to Alabama to work on her baccalaureate in 1993 and graduated from UNA in 1996 as a double major in Communications and Psychology. After graduation she began working toward her masters in counseling, but after going through a series of personal trials, and a desire to teach speech, she commuted to Tuscaloosa for her masters in Communication Studies at the University of Alabama. “I did it one class at a time. Many days began at 4:00am and ended after 10:00pm.” She finished her masters in 2005 and landed a full time position at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.“I really enjoyed my time there, but when the job came open at UNA, I was ready to come home.” As a second year PhD student at the University of Memphis, she is commuting once again. This time, she has the love and support of an even larger family, five children and eleven grandchildren. Her husband travels to Memphis with her when he can to ease the burden of the long drive. He is undeniably her best friend. 

She knows that behind a good teacher are fabulous students. She is genuinely concerned about and cares for students. “I am deeply committed to the student body at UNA; they are a priority to me. We have the best - they are incredibly enjoyable, intelligent, likeable and pleasant to be around. Plus they make me laugh and even sometimes cry (not in a bad way though). I never would have imagined being honored with such a huge award for something I love so much. I am so thankful and so appreciative.”



UNA Student Wins Michael K. Simmons Memorial Scholarship!


HUNTSVILLE, Ala.—Marcey Anne Sykes, a senior public relations major at the University of North Alabama, is the 2014 recipient of the North Alabama Chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama’s Michael K. Simmons Memorial Scholarship.  She will be honored at the May 21 luncheon meeting of NAPRCA, held at Redstone Federal Credit Union.

The award is $2,000 toward the recipient’s tuition and fees for the Fall 2014 or Spring 2015 terms. The scholarship is open to students majoring in public relations or public relations-related fields of study such as public communications, marketing, mass communications, or journalism. Students must be enrolled in a university located in north Alabama and have completed at least one semester of coursework to be eligible for the scholarship. The award selection is based on grade point average, extracurricular activities, a faculty recommendation and an essay.  At UNA, Sykes is a member of the varsity tennis team, National Leadership Society, Phi Kappa Phi academic honorary, and UNA PRIDE (Public Relations Individuals Dedicated to Excellence), which is the university’s student public relations organization. She is also a freelance photographer/videographer and has a 3.95 GPA. Sykes is from Iuka, Miss., and was a a student and member of the tennis team at Northeast Mississippi Community College before transferring to UNA. The North Alabama Chapter of PRCA established the Michael K. Simmons Memorial Scholarship Program in 1974, with the purpose of encouraging students to explore the public relations profession and to introduce them to PRCA and the important role a professional organization can play in the early stages of their career. Funds for the scholarship are raised from individual member donations, professional development events and workshops. The Public Relations Council of Alabama seeks to promote the development of public relations practitioners through continuing education and increased awareness about the profession. For more information about NAPRCA, please visit

Marcey Anne Sykes, far right in the group photo above, is the winner of the 2014 Michael A. Simmons Scholarship, sponsored by the North Alabama Chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama. She is pictured here with UNA PR professor Dr. Beth Garfrerick and other PR majors Skyler Mansell, Kris Lard and Nikki Messer at an April 22 Southeast Regional PRSA conference at David Lipscomb University in Nashville.