In the editor's note of the annual student magazine at The University of Texas-Pan American, the Panorama, co-editors Daniel Flores and Santa Hernandez wrote about the challenges they faced to put together "a publication students wanted to read."
"What you're reading are fine-tuned ideas that have gone through multiple critiques and scrutiny. We've sweated and bled (figuratively) for the right to publish a magazine that we believed in," they wrote.
Their determination and commitment has led the Panorama staff to earn a Pacemaker Award from the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) at the National College Media Convention held Oct. 27-31 in Louisville, Ky. ACP is the oldest and largest national membership organization for college student journalists. The Pacemaker awards honor general excellence in collegiate magazines and judges them in content, quality of writing and editing, photography, art and graphics, layout and design, and overall concept or theme.
Four other university magazines were awarded with a Pacemaker - Drake University, Webster University, Kent State University and University of Oregon.
The Panorama was also one of eight winners for best feature magazine and placed fifth among eight finalists in an onsite Best in Show competition for feature magazines.
Hernandez said she attributed the success of this year's magazine to not only the staff's talent and hard work but also to the publication's more risky approach.
"Not only did the magazine manage to talk about what was happening around campus, it also had stories about what is happening among students our age," she said.
The magazine's faculty adviser, Department of Communication lecturer, Donna Pazdera, said the magazine competition was judged by the staff of Texas Monthly magazine.
"Texas Monthly is probably the best regional magazine in the country, so to be regarded as a winner by them is very flattering," she said. "This year, the magazine was more about the writing than in years past. We have a very talented, gutsy group of writers who pushed outside the usual comfort zone and I think that paid off. Also, the design is cleaner and simpler than in years past, and I think that also helped make it a great publication."
While the student staff does not get credit hours for working on the publication, Hernandez said the experience allows them to learn time management, leadership, and interpersonal skills as well as to improve their skills on programs such as InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator.
"We get the satisfaction of seeing the final product being distributed, we get to build friendships, we get to have a voice in the University and we get the gratification of being recognized for it," she said.
Pazdera said the opportunity to participate in contests and competitions is good for the students.
"It affirms that their hard work has paid off. For the university, winning competitions puts us on the map. Most schools have never heard of us before, much less Edinburg, Texas. But when we had our entourage of 18 in the audience, cheering madly, it makes an impression that we are the little school that could," she said.
Other student media also fared well at the conference. Bronc Radio and TV brought home a second place for Best TV News Reporting for a piece on University parking fees created by Adriel Ortiz and Heather Arevalo. The award was from College Broadcasters, Inc. (CBI)'s National Student Production Awards Program. CBI is a co-sponsor of the annual ACP/CMA conference.
Bronc Radio and TV were also finalists in three other contests: Best Radio Newscast , Best PSA and Best Newscast. Faculty advisers are Department of Communication lecturers Fred Mann, Bronc Radio, and Nick Taylor, Bronc TV.
Taylor described the story about the parking fee increases at UTPA as solid, professional and entertaining journalism that was deserving of recognition.
"The end result was a well produced story that I feel could run on any newscast in the country," he said.
The Pan American student newspaper won three awards: Second Place for Best Newspaper Spread by Roy Bazan, third place for Best Multimedia Feature by Kristen Cabrera (student editor), Jose Villarreal and Joao Calhandro, and Honorable Mention for Best Editorial Cartoon by Anthony Salinas. The Pan American newspaper's faculty adviser is Dr. Gregory Selber, associate professor of communication.
The Student Government Association funded the conference trip where students also got to attend workshops offered by professionals in broadcast, design, writing, editing, photography, freedom of the press and more.
"The students find inspiration, ideas and get to commiserate with nationally known speakers and journalists. They always come back, fresher and ready to tackle their work. That is very valuable," Pazdera said.
Department of Communication chair Dr. Timothy Mottet said he is thrilled that UTPA's students and faculty are being recognized on a national level but is not surprised because he knows the talent that is in the department.
"The department has been gaining momentum over the past few years due to an incredible faculty who come not only from some of the country's finest doctoral programs, but who have also worked in communication industries. The national recognition that our students have earned is a direct reflection of a faculty-student partnership that is committed to excellence," he said.
Mottet said this type of national recognition helps the department fulfill its vision of being recognized as the country's number one Department of Communication within an Hispanic Serving Institution to educate and place communication professionals in organizations, communication industries and institutions of higher education.