GA collegiate journalists win highest honor given by SPJ

By Erica Relaford, SPJ Georgia summer intern, SPJ Georgia collegiate pro

Georgia colleges and universities brought home 13 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards announced at the SPJ Indianapolis national headquarters on April 1.  The University of Georgia took home five in various categories, while Emory University took three and Savannah College of Arts and Design – Atlanta took home two. Georgia Regents and Berry College each came home with one Mark of Excellence award.

“The judges have seen a lot of entries that look the same so figure out a way to ‘WOW’ them,” said Acquille Dunkley, 20, from Savannah College of Art and Design – Atlanta. He said a student needs to go beyond their limit and not to be afraid of failure. “I knew it (his submission) had a strong concept, but I kind of pushed it off to the side, I didn’t want to get side tracked on the possibility of winning,” said Dunkley.  He won a Mark of Excellence award for General News Photography (small: 1 – 9,999 students).

SPJ National Awards Coordinator Abbi Martzall said the Mark of Excellence awards are important to students because it gives the students a chance to be recognized, to gain feedback and to have professional journalists critiquing their work.

“A lot of them are graduating,” said Martizall. “So to be able to say you won something professional in a journalism award is a big deal, and it gives them something to add on their resume.” Winning a MOE award also gives the students confidence, she said.

First place national winners will be recognized at the 2015 SPJ Excellence in Journalism conference in September 2015 in Orlando.

The Georgia MOE winners and finalists include:

Breaking News Photography (Large: 10,000 + students): Winner, John Roark, University of Georgia, “Undocumented student demonstration.”

Breaking News Photography (Small: 1 – 9,999 students):  Winner, James Crissman, Emory University, “Black lives matter.”

Feature Photography (Small: 1 – 9,999 students): Finalist: LuAnne DeMeo, Savannah College of Arts and Design – Atlanta, “Vandon Gibbs portrait.”

General News Photography (Large: 10,000 + students):  Winner, Randy Schafer, University of Georgia, “Dumpster Diving.”

General News Photography (Small: 1 – 9,999 students): Winner, Nancy Juarez, Savannah College of Arts and Design – Atlanta, “Generate 2014: Designing in a day.”

Photo Illustration (Small: 1 – 9,999 students): Winner, Acquille Dunkley, Savannah College of Arts and Design – Atlanta, “Love bytes;” Finalist, James Crissman, Emory University, “Center for Civil and Human Rights;” Finalist, Jo Arellanes, Savannah College of Arts and Design – Atlanta, “Split Twitter personalities.”

Sports Photography (Large: 10,000 + students): Finalist, David C. Bristow, University of Georgia, “SEC swimming and diving championships.”

Best Student Magazine: Winner, Ampersand Magazine staff, University of Georgia; Finalists, Matthew Johnson, Kaitlin Keller, Anna Garner, Drew Greiner, The Phoenix, Georgia Regents University.

Non-Fiction Magazine Article: Winner: Erica Ruggles, Georgia Regents University, “Hooked.”

Best All-Around Non Daily Student Newspaper: Winner, Red & Black staff, University of Georgia.

Breaking News Reporting (Small: 1 – 9,999): Winners, Stephen Fowler, Sonam Vashi, Emory University, “Swastikas drawn on AEPi walls.”

Feature Writing (Small: 1 – 9,999): Winner, Jenna Kingsley, Emory University, “Decoding Emory’s hackathon.”

General News Reporting (Large: 10,000 + students): Finalist, Michelle Baruchman, University of Georgia, “Access Denied: Historical preservation trumps accessibility?

In-Depth Reporting (Large: 10,000 + students): Winner, David Schick, “The Red Zone: Sexual assaults on UGA campus;” Finalist, Hilary Butschek, University of Georgia, “Playing with fire?: Some extinguishers left expired for nearly one year until reported.”

Sports Column Writing: Finalist, Nick Suss, University of Georgia, “Why college basketball fans love to hate the RPI.”

Sports Writing (Large: 10,000 + students): Winner, Tanya Sichynsky, University of Georgia, “50 years: Vince Dooley reflects on half-century in Athens.”

Best Use of Multimedia:  Winner, Viking Fusion Project Madrid Team, Berry College, “Madrid as text.”

Online Feature Reporting: Finalist, Kendall Trammell, University of Georgia, “Mama’s boy: Recruiting program coordinator to retire in March.”

Online Opinion & Commentary: Finalist, Jen Schwartz, Savannah College of Arts and Design – Atlanta, columns.

Online Sports Reporting: Finalist, Tanya Sichynsky, University of Georgia, “50 years: Vince Dooley reflects on a half-century in Athens.”

Television Breaking News Reporting: Finalist, Alexa Knowles, University of Georgia, “Ice storm: Round 2.”

Erica Relaford

Erica Relaford, a SPJ Georgia collegiate pro and 2015 summer intern, is the news and culture editor for Tiger’s Roar, the student newspaper at Savannah State University. She is also a freelancer for So Fresh Magazine in Atlanta, Georgia, and has written for the Cross Roads News in Decatur, Georgia. As a graduating senior at SSU, she majors in journalism and mass communications and minors in English. Erica Relaford’s is LinkedIn. Her email is


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