UA grad student places first in competition

Patty Vaughan

After months of hard work and research, Elizabeth Riesterer won first place in the Arthur W. Page Society case study competition.

Riesterer is a graduate student in advertising and public relations at the University. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame.

The national contest in which she submitted her case study, “President Obama at Notre Dame: Maintaining Integrity When Actions Speak Louder than Words,” is open to business, communication and journalism students. Her work was judged on its timeliness and relevance to public relations and educational value.

“This is a really difficult competition to win,” said Joseph Phelps, chairman of the advertising and public relations department. “It’s a very prestigious competition. The Arthur W. Page Society is one of the most prestigious organizations within public relations. It’s very much centered on ethics.”

This experience began when Bruce Berger, a professor of advertising and public relations and Riesterer’s advisor on the project, was requiring his students to write up a regular case study or enter into the Page Society contest.

“At the time I thought, if I’m going to do a case study anyway, I might as well do one that I’m going to enter in to a competition,” Riesterer said.

Riesterer received an e-mail from her alma mater about the controversial issue of President Obama, who is pro-choice, speaking at a Catholic university.

“I knew there was a lot of controversy and arguments back and forth on the issue, but I didn’t know it had continued on,” Riesterer said. “I thought this could be really neat to look into, and the more I started looking into it, I just found so much information that I thought this was it. I have to do this.”

After months of researching, getting firsthand sources and writing up the actual case, Riesterer submitted her case in January.

“Elizabeth did all the work,” Berger said. “I went through the requirements with her, provided examples of cases and read and reacted to several drafts she produced, asking questions and occasionally offering suggestions.”

Riesterer had confidence in her case and was hoping for the best as corporate executives and academic leaders reviewed her case.

“I’ve never been one to enter contests or competitions expecting to win, but I also don’t know if anyone enters competitions thinking that they don’t have a chance,” Riesterer said. “I thought that I had a really strong case, and I thought what worked well for me was that most of my resources were firsthand.”

Riesterer said she found out she had won the contest in a very unexpected way.

“[The e-mail] had gone to my spam folder so I never saw that,” she said. “I actually found out from a friend who texted me saying that she saw the tweet that came out on Bama APR’s Twitter account. I was surprised and excited. It’s thrilled and honored more than anything, and I’m still smiling.”

Phelps said this was the first time a student at the University had won this type of competition.

“It is one more example of the great things that our students are doing,” Phelps said. “Because of the great things that are faculty and students are doing that people are really taking a look at what’s happening at the University of Alabama. It means a great deal actually. It’s one more brick in that big wall that’s going up that says great things are happening here.”

Phelps said he believes that students should participate more in contests like these not only for the winning aspect, but for the learning aspect as well.

“It’s wonderful and great recognition when students win, but the real prize is in the learning along the way,” Phelps said. “I do hope that [students] keep competing, and that we can talk about their great successes both when they take first place and just when they do a great job and maybe aren’t recognized as the top.”

Riesterer also believes that it is important for every kind of student to partake in national contests.

“We compete against the same people every day in class, and we’re submitting our work against the same people,” Riesterer said. “You’re putting something that you did out there for other people to see and that can be scary and intimidating, but that’s what we’re in school for. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to learn, stretch and push ourselves, and it’s great when you can win, but it’s great to know that you’ve pushed yourself and that you’ve put something out there also.”