Esther Kim named PRWeek Outstanding Student of the Year

Esther Kim holds her trophy up as she crosses the stage.
Esther Kim holds up her Outstanding Student award as she crosses the stage at the PRWeek Awards on March 14, 2024. Presenter Michael Morley, founder of Edelman UK, looks on.(Photos: Sarah E. Freeman)

Esther Kim named PRWeek Outstanding Student of the Year

March 18, 2024

Esther Kim, a fourth-year public relations major, was named Outstanding Student in the nation by PRWeek, one of the industry’s leading trade publications.

Kim was named Outstanding Student at the PRWeek US Awards gala in New York City on March 14, 2024, attended by more than 800 industry leaders. Celebrating its 25th year, the PRWeek Awards is considered one of the most prestigious award programs in the public relations industry.

Display noting that Esther Kim won the Outstanding Student Award.
Esther Kim was named the Outstanding Student based on a nationwide pitch where students created campaigns to address climate change.

“We are very proud of Esther as I know she worked so hard to develop her campaign and achieve this accomplishment,” said Juan Meng, UGA Athletic Association Endowed Professor and head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations. “This is a recognition of her versatility to apply and adapt knowledge and skills acquired in her public relations education to address real world issues. Esther is an exemplary student who is professionally dedicated to academic excellence and integrity. We are so happy for her success.”

The nationwide competition challenges students to develop a fully integrated communications campaign addressing a specific prompt. This year, students conducted research and created goals, strategies and tactics focused on “Emphasizing the seriousness of climate change and educating a divided America.” The campaigns were required to address climate change believers and deniers, while also incorporating the use of AI.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend PRWeek Awards among such distinguished professionals who have been leading our country in communications,” Kim said. “I am profoundly grateful to my incredible mentors, professors, and peers who have supported and guided me throughout my journey. This award is as much theirs as it is mine, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for believing in me and helping me reach new heights.”

In addition to Kim, Morgan Jones, a fourth-year public relations student, was named one of the Top Five Outstanding Students. Jin Lee and Eli Banzon were also nominated by the department for the award and all four students worked with Ben Deutsch, part-time instructor, to prepare their campaigns.

Picture of Morgan Jones who was named a Top Five finalist for the Outstanding Student competition.
Morgan Jones, a fourth-year public relations major at Grady College, was named a Top Five Outstanding Student at the PRWeek Awards.

“It was a pleasure to work with Esther, Morgan, Jin and Eli,” said Deutsch, a former vice president of corporate communications at Coca-Cola. “This was a complex assignment, but the students were well equipped for the challenge due to the learnings and experiences they’ve gained at Grady College.  I was really impressed by their strategic thinking and creativity.  I’m very proud of all of them and, of course, super excited that Esther’s campaign was recognized as the best in the country.”

Additionally, the Grady College Department of Advertising and Public Relations was named one of top five education programs nationwide and was considered for the top honor in the PRWeek Outstanding Education Program in the nation.

Kim said working with Deutsch was very helpful in helping her to narrow down the direction of a large, overarching topic. Meng and Tom Cullen, a public relations lecturer, also provided feedback on preparing the submission.

“Being a finalist and eventual winner validated a lot of things I have done and knowing that the judges didn’t look at my resume but that it was my work that is getting recognized, is really nice,” Kim said.

Kim used the Mission Earth theme for her campaign, which was a nod to her love of the show “Mission Impossible.” She incorporated a proposed partnership with NASA Global Climate Change to ensure creditability, and SentiOne, an AI platform, that would be used as a social listening tool.

In addition to her major in public relations, Kim is a member of the Morehead Honors College and is earning certificates in New Media and the Institute for Leadership Advancement, a program of the Terry College of Business. She is also the lead curator for TEDxUGA, executive director for The Backpack Project of Athens and a Grady College ambassador. Kim is a medical assistant at the Athens Wellness Clinic and plans to attend medical school after graduation. 

Campaigns were submitted from public relations programs throughout the country, and the finalists were based on their creativity and ability to think strategically and analytically. Other finalists this year came from the University of Florida and Penn State.

AdPR Faculty and Esther Kim on the red carpet.
Esther Kim (fourth from left) is congratulated by Dean Charles Davis (fourth from right) and Department of Advertising and Public Relations faculty at the PRWeek Awards

Writer: Sarah Freeman,