Missouri School of Journalism senior Ryan Wilson named one of AAF’s 50 Most Promising Multicultural Students

Ryan Wilson

By Austin Fitzgerald

COLUMBIA, Mo. (Jan. 17, 2024) — A Missouri School of Journalism student has once again been selected as one of the American Advertising Federation’s 50 Most Promising Multicultural Students. For 2024, the honor went to Ryan Wilson, who was chosen out of high-achieving and diverse seniors in more than 140 AAF college chapters nationwide.

Since 2017, 12 School of Journalism students have earned this award.

“Congratulations to Ryan for this stellar accomplishment and for representing the School of Journalism at a national level,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School. “Having seized every opportunity to grow through hands-on experience, she is a fine example of the School’s skilled and multicultural body of students preparing to move the industry forward.”

The distinction is about more than recognition; Wilson will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to New York in early February for a four-day professional development workshop and networking event, during which she will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from top companies such as TikTok, Sony Music Group and Publicis Groupe, the latter billing itself as the “second-largest communications group in the world.”

The judges, who chose 50 top students representing 39 schools, also hailed from powerhouse companies such as Amazon Ads and Snap.

“It won’t feel real until I’m on the flight to New York,” said Wilson, who is currently a copywriter for MOJO Ad, the School of Journalism’s advertising agency staffed by senior strategic communication students. “It’s been a whirlwind, and everyone’s been telling me I’m going to do great things.”

It won’t be her first time in New York. Last January, she took part in a new two-week venture from the School’s New York Program that tasked 21 students with developing a pitch for a marketing campaign at global agency VML (then known as VMLY&R).

Every class and internship I’ve had leading up to this award have all pushed me and tested me in different ways, and they made me realize I have a good, creative mind for advertising.

Ryan Wilson

Nor will it be her first major award. As committee chair for NABJ-MU, the School’s student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, she was part of the team that earned the NABJ Student Chapter of the Year Award last August.

Now entering her final semester before graduation, Wilson said that while she may not know exactly where her career will take her after graduation, she has a firm grasp on her skills she has nurtured in her time at the School.

“Every class and internship I’ve had leading up to this award have all pushed me and tested me in different ways, and they made me realize I have a good, creative mind for advertising,” Wilson said. “My career goal is to be a creative director, but all I know for now is that I really want to work at an agency in a big city like Chicago or New York.”

Wilson has drawn on a network of support from others at the School of Journalism, including Amari Foster, the former president of the School’s National Association of Black Journalists chapter, who offered reassurance and encouragement as one of last year’s winners of the award.

Ron Kelley, the faculty adviser for NABJ-MU, also played a key role in putting the School of Journalism on Wilson’s radar when they met in 2020 at an event in Wilson’s native Chicago and has been an important mentor throughout her time at the university.

“I have seen how much Ryan has grown since her freshman year,” Kelley said. “She has been willing to put herself out there, and it is all paying off. I am very proud of this talented and smart young lady.”

In Wilson’s senior year, another source of support has emerged in Jon Stemmle, whom she credited with pushing her to apply for the award and to reach for other opportunities like her internship last summer with PR giant Edelman, where she worked on a General Mills account.

“Ryan is the strategic communication equivalent of a five-tool baseball player — she can do it all,” Stemmle said. “When you see a student with that kind of ability, I think it’s your responsibility as a faculty member to see how you can try to elevate them and push them to be all that they can be. I’m beyond thrilled that she got this opportunity.”

Stemmle added that the recognition and networking experience in New York is also an important confidence builder for students heading into the workforce. Still, for all of Wilson’s excitement at this honor from the AAF, she is also eager for her experience to serve as an example to other students from multicultural backgrounds.

“I’m excited for other students of color to see that they can apply for and get this award, to see that the J-School can prepare you to do hard things,” Wilson said. “I think that was my lesson for 2023: You can do hard things.”

Updated: January 16, 2024

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