Three Volunteers Recognized at Volunteer PRSA Communicator of the Year Awards Ceremony
Caption: Drue Hamlet (left), Chancellor Donde Plowman (middle), and Cole Pawlaczyk (right) at the 2024 Volunteer PRSA Awards Ceremony.
Three Volunteers were recognized for their remarkable work in the fields of marketing, public relations, and communications, at the Volunteer Public Relations Society of America’s 2024 Communicator of the Year Awards Ceremony. The recipients included University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman, Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations alumnus Cole Pawlaczyk (‘22), and Tombras School student Drue Hamlet.
Hamlet, a junior studying public relations, said she loves the field and getting to network with professionals in it. That’s why she joined the Sammie Lynn Puett Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America and is its current vice president.
“I took my first PR course with Dr. Beth Foster, director of the Tombras School, and I immediately fell in love. I found a friendship and mentorship with her, and then I also just fell in love with the field itself. Then I started getting involved, and that’s where I met Dr. Joe Stabb and all the other professionals that I’ve connected with today,” Hamlet said while at the event.
Hamlet said receiving the 2024 Student Communicator of the Year award was “gratifying.”
“Education is super important to me, so [I’m] just taking advantage of the education they have at UT for sure,” Hamlet added.
Cole Pawlaczyk is an intelligence strategist at Designsensory. He earned his degree in public relations from UT in December 2022. Pawlaczyk was an active member of the Tennessee Speech and Debate Society during his time at UT and, as an alumnus, was instrumental in moving the debate team to the College of Communication and Information.
“I did not imagine myself working with data a whole lot,” Pawlaczyk said. “But it was something that I knew I was kind of talented with, just wasn’t my interest. So, getting the opportunity to learn how to combine [data and public relations] was a lot of fun, because, you know, PR is great, but being informed and being research-driven with that just makes it so much stronger.”
Pawlaczyk was awarded the Ellen Liston Rising Young Professional Award and said his education and the faculty at the College of Communication and Information helped propel him to be successful in the workforce.
“Yes, I got here because of how hard I work [and] I’ve been working, but I also know how hard others have believed in me and advocated for me at different points, you know, whether it be during college or after. So knowing how many people helped me get here, too, was really special,” he said.
Plowman was awarded the 2024 Communicator of the Year award. During her time as chancellor she has used marketing, public relations, and communication platforms as key tools to advance the university’s mission and connect with a wide audience. During the ceremony, Plowman said one of her goals as chancellor is to be accessible.
“People aren’t going to trust you as a leader if they don’t know you, and social media for me is a mechanism for people in the state to know the leadership, know what we’re trying to do, and know what the university is up to, and they can be proud of it,” she said.
Plowman and her team oversee four different social media accounts. She said when she travels, people across the state commend her for how active she is on social media. She acknowledged her communications team for the work they do on a daily basis.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now without the incredible help of so many people at the university,” She said. “I think these are noble professions to be in. All of you that are in the College of Communication and Information, I’m just so proud of you.
PRSA is the leading professional organization serving the communications community through a network of more than 400 professionals. The Volunteer Chapter holds many meetings and events on and off UT’s campus. To become a member and learn more about the organization, you can visit VolunteerPRSA.org.