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PRISM, Virginia Tech’s premier faculty-led, student-run digital marketing agency and 2019 Outstanding Student Organization of the Year, is celebrating its 10th birthday. While gifts weren’t originally expected to be part of the commemoration, the student group was recently awarded two bronze Tellys during the 41st Annual Telly Awards.

Founded and advised by Donna Wertalik, professor of practice in the Marketing Department and director of marketing strategy and analytics with the Pamplin College of Business, PRISM is funded with over $100,000 in grants and represents global, local, and campus clients. The organization originally began in the Marketing Department and now resides under the Dean's office as the key communicators for the Pamplin College of Business’s social media and digital presence.

“I continue to be inspired by our incredible students who work interdisciplinarily across the campus and country with clients of all areas,” said Wertalik. “Behind every award are the hardest working students, with drive, determination, and diligence.”

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Donna for the amazing job she has done in making PRISM what it is today,” said Rajesh Bagchi, department head for the Marketing Department. “This couldn’t have been possible without her dedication and tireless efforts. I would also like to thank all the students and others affiliated with PRISM who have made this possible.”

“This is a huge accomplishment for PRISM and I am so happy to be a part of this,” said creative technologies major Chris Marano, PRISM creative director.

The Telly Awards, established in 1979, recognize excellence in television and video across all digital mediums. Receiving entries from all 50 states and 5 continents, Telly Award winners represent work from some of the most respected advertising agencies, television stations, production companies, and publishers from around the world. Entries are judged by a council of renowned video and television experts from some of the world’s most prominent entertainment, advertising, publishing, and technology companies.

In just the first decade of their existence, PRISM has been the recipients of seven bronze Tellys and one gold Telly, among other honors.

“One of the reasons PRISM is so successful is its interdisciplinary nature,” added Robert Sumichrast, Dean of the Pamplin College of Business. “The organization relies on students enrolled in different majors who bring their own personal and academic backgrounds to a range of projects.”

PRISM’s two most recent award-winning videos, the 2019 Pamplin spring commencement video and 2019 PRISM recruitment video, were chosen from among over 13,000 entries.

“We wanted to create an underlying story which would show growth in the main character and allow that person to pass something off to the next generation,” Marano said, explaining the graduation video. “The story was perfectly created by PRISM and Virginia Tech alum Rachel Bryner. Once her idea was written out, storyboarded, and approved, we got to work.”

After three weeks of long days and nights spent framing and executing the best shots, and additional time spent editing, the PRISM multimedia team sent the video to the PRISM executive team and a Pamplin board that included Dean Sumichrast, all of whom loved the video.

“This entry stood out from the thousands of videos entered into the competition because this was college students creating a video with industry standards,” Marano said. “The quality of both the video and the storyline was top notch. This was a mini-movie made into a graduation video.”

In contrast to the graduation video, the process of creating the recruitment video was a much less linear path, and the final product was very different from past PRISM work.

“One month before the deadline I received a message asking me if I had any video editing experience because both of our editors were wrapped up in other projects and were not available to work on the recruitment video,” said Kendyl Florence, a senior in marketing management and account manager for PRISM’s 10th-anniversary initiatives.

Florence continued, “We had a voiceover and footage ready, so I began creating the already story-boarded video. Then, the day before the deadline, I came up with a new idea for a concept that we hadn't done before and we stayed up all night planning it out.”

The news of this prestigious award came as a pleasant surprise to Florence and the PRISM team.

“I think this proves that PRISM gives its members so many ways to branch out and succeed and that sometimes taking a creative shot in the dark is worth it.”

Added Wertalik, “We are coming up on a decade of PRISM and we have only just begun!”

Proving Wertalik’s point, PRISM also recently announced the creation of the PRISM Alumni Advisory Council, or PRAAC. Primary activities of the PRAAC will include assisting current members in career development, organization enhancement, and as well as the establishment of a PRISM scholarship.

The PRAAC will be led by PRISM’s current alumni advisor Michael Vitak ’17 in the role of PRAAC president. Vitak will be joined by Brett Simone ’15, Briana Augenreich ’15, Daniel Mun ’17, Kelsey Stoner ’20, Patrick Kampfmueller ’16, Tara Petrucci ’12, Robbie Ashton ’13, and Sandy Bass ’12. Starting in January 2021, each of these nine inaugural members will begin a two-year term on the council.

“Our mission is to engage alumni in a mutually beneficial partnership that generates meaningful connections and strengthens the PRISM community,” the executive team explained in the initial statement of expectations for the PRAAC. “We hope to foster a community built on today’s creatives, strategists, and analysts guiding the next generation of marketing mavens.”

The PRAAC will become the newest addition to the lineup of official Pamplin advisory boards.