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USC celebrates 10th anniversary of AAF's Most Promising Program

The AAF's Most Promising program began in 1997 when its corporate members said they needed to find qualified minority candidates for advertising jobs. Since then, 14 University of South Carolina students have been named a Most Promising Minority Student and 17 students have been named to the Honor Roll. (Four of the students received multiple awards.)

"It’s fascinating to see the career paths of our Most Promising alumni," Drewniany said. "They’re working at advertising agencies, in the media, in education and politics. It’s a wonderful testimonial about the quality of our program."
Meet some past recipients

LaJeanna McKnight
LaJeanna McKnight is a marketing consultant for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballethnic Dance Company, Black Women in Film Preservation Project, Atlanta Tribune, as well as artists Julie Dexter and Yewande. Prior to starting her consulting business, McKnight worked for Essence, Ebony, and Advertising Age magazines and for Advertising Women of New York.

McKnight has received numerous awards including Advertising Age’s "Women to Watch" award, AAF’s James S. Fish Aid to Advertising Education award, The City of New York Proclamation, The Network Journal’s "40 Under Forty" achievement award and the USC School of Journalism’s Outstanding Young Alumna award.

McKnight attributes much of her early success to the Most Promising award. "Receiving the award opened so many doors for me in the early stages of my career, I can't even begin to describe the impact.  It's been ten years since the day that I walked across the stage and I still reflect back in appreciation.  I owe a lot of my success to the Most Promising program.  In addition, one of the most wonderful things about being an alumna is the continuous support that you still receive over the years," she said.

Ron Cohen
Ron Cohen, an advertising/graphics specialist at the South Carolina Education Lottery, was offered positions with ABC in New York and at ESPN's corporate headquarters in Connecticut, but chose to stay in South Carolina.  

Most recently, he was a part of team that created the most recalled campaign for the lottery with "lizard man."

"Loved it or hated it, everyone who saw it remembered it. It was a great awareness campaign that led us to develop an instant ticket and arrange personal appearances of lizard man at various events," said Cohen.

Cohen reflected on his experience as a Most Promising student: "Being surrounded with people who have the same mindset as you, who wish to excel, are trying new things, is a wonderful feeling."

Alicia Worthy
Alicia Worthy, a second-year law student at New York University, described the Most Promising award winners: "The students symbolize brilliance, dedication, and impeccable drive. They also serve as inspiration to future students to strive for academic excellence."

Worthy said being honored as a Most Promising minority student taught her the importance of diversity in academia and the workplace. "The program also served as a catalyst for me to gain knowledge about the various advertising communications industries," she said.

Worthy is currently writing a paper concerning employment discrimination and the representation of African-Americans in the news industry.

Toby Jenkins
Toby Jenkins is director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center at Penn State. Before that, she was the assistant director of the Nyumburu Cultural Center at the University of Maryland.

At Maryland, Jenkins created the Joint Service Project, which brings together college students, faculty, and staff in service efforts within the black community, and the Vision Cultural Mentoring Initiative, which provides college mentors to local high school students of the African Diaspora. Both programs received honors from President George W. Bush and the Governor of Maryland.

Additionally, Jenkins has worked with students from more than 40 countries as the resident life director for the Johns Hopkins University Office of Summer Programs. She also has worked for the Coca Cola Company as an account executive, Oscar Mayer as a media spokesperson and Bank of America as a community relations representative.

Malik Husser
Malik Husser, executive director of the African American Leadership Council of the Democratic National Committee, was the USC Student Body President in 1999-2000.

Drewniany notes that one of this year’s Most Promising recipients—Justin Williams—is the current Student Body President.

"Malik and Justin have made an important difference at USC. We plan to have them talk about leadership during our College’s I-Comm Week in April," she said.

Cedric Scott
Cedric Scott is currently the #1 ranked afternoon on-air personality at WRCL-FM, a Top 40 radio station in metro-Detroit. He is also the director of promotions & marketing of the station, which just received a "Station of the Year" award from Pepsi for their creative marketing campaigns.

Previously, Scott was the local host for the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show.

He anticipates completing the requirements for an MBA in Marketing from the University of Phoenix in Dec. 2006.


Advice to students

Cohen — "You can never settle.  If you aren't trying new things, you are wasting your time. This profession is highly competitive, and you have to have your resources available to you to help you succeed.  Networking and maintaining a rapport with your contacts is so critical to your success.  You never know whom you will meet, and you never know when you will cross paths again."

"Be inspired. Go have fun.  Let the stress push you to do better, not stop your innovation. When you get to a place where you can help others ... do it."

McKnight — "Stay on top of the trends, remain 'in the know,' and position yourself as a valuable resource in your jobs.  Don't be afraid to let your light shine, talk about it, but still be humble.  You are and will be your best spokesperson.  Press through your challenges and stay focused on your dreams.  You are the captain of your ship; don't let someone else steer it."

Scott — "In a world of cost-cutting and consolidation, it is important to be multi-faceted. Know something about everything, so you are never expendable. Be a jack-of-all-trades and actually master many of them. Also, read everything. It's important to know what's going on so you can understand the types of marketing that will reach your target market. Finally, don't be afraid of the unknown. Risk-taking is a part of the job."

Most Promising Minority Student Award Recipients

  Most Promising Honor Roll
2012 Radiance Basden  
2011 Tsilavo Ratsimbaharison Erin Loo
2010 Owen Black Tekedra Hankins
2009 Courtney Robinson

Katie Okawa
Noelle Williams

2008 Tashia Goodwine
Amber Guyton
2007 William Frierson
Tim Frisby

Kelly Cheung
Justin Williams
Kelly Wright

Jennifer Gomez
Keli Walker

2005 Camea Gilyard Danielle Washington
2004 Alicia Worthy  
2003 LeRone "Ron" Cohen Bianca Crawford
Angela Diamond
Andrea Glover
2002 Kenya Bryant
Mechelle Lewis

Angela Diamond
Chrystal Hodges
Danielle Siau

2001 Cedric Scott Shaun Corney
Tara Spann
2000 Malik Husser Rania Brown
Charisse Lyons
Cedric Scott
Svenya Nimmons
1999 Stella Creager Charisse Lyons
1998 Octavia Walker

Stella Creager
Adrienne Jackson
Melissa Washington

1997 LaJeanna McKnight
Toby Jenkins