Southeast Public Relations Student Honored with PRSA ‘Rising Star’ Award


Southeast student Aaron Wendel is presented the Rising Star Award from (right to left) current PRSASTL President Paul Murphy-Spooner, PRSASTL immediate past president Sandi Straetker, and Tressa Robbins, Southeast PRSSA chapter professional advisor and vice president of client onboarding an implementation at BurrellesLuce.

Southeast Missouri State University senior Aaron Wendel was recently honored with the Rising Star Award from the St. Louis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) during its St. Louis ImPRessions Awards ceremony Nov. 15.

Wendel is the first student to receive this new award, established to recognize a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) member in the St. Louis region who’s achieved early career successes, demonstrates outstanding leadership potential, possesses an enthusiasm for the future of public relations and is actively involved in the St. Louis community.

“It was a great honor to even be considered for the Rising Star Award, so to have actually won is an incredible feeling,” Wendel said. “I have always tried to set myself apart in whatever I do, and it feels great to know people have taken notice. This award means a lot to me because, as I start my career, it has given me the opportunity to make connections with professionals in the industry. Also, the award comes with a $115 scholarship for a PRSA associate membership with PRSA National and the PRSA St. Louis Chapter, which will allow me to continue to make connections and develop professionally.”

Wendel, of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is a mass communication major with an option in public relations. He was nominated for the PRSA Rising Star award by Southeast PRSSA chapter faculty adviser Dr. Susan Gonders, professor of mass media at Southeast, and professional advisor Tressa Robbins, vice president of client onboarding an implementation at BurrellesLuce.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to see a soon-to-be fellow Southeast alum win the PR Rising Star Award – especially in its inaugural year,” Robbins said. “Aaron has taken every opportunity to work, gain a range of experience through multiple internships, as well as professional development opportunities – all while paying his way through school. I’m beaming with pride!”

Gonders agreed, adding, “Aaron has been a leader who has opened doors for other students. He is a leader who inspires others to rise to higher levels.”

Southeast senior Aaron Wendel with Tressa Robbins, Southeast PRSSA chapter professional advisor and vice president of client onboarding an implementation at BurrellesLuce, at the St. Louis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) St. Louis ImPRessions Awards ceremony.

Wendel has been actively involved in the field of public relations throughout his time at Southeast. He has served as a public relations intern for the Optum Marketing Group in St. Louis, a public relations and marketing intern for the Saint Francis Healthcare System in Cape Girardeau, Missouri; and a member of the marketing and sales street team for carGO Technologies.

Additionally, he is a copywriter and social media coordinator for Riverfront PR, Southeast’s student public relations firm, and social media coordinator for Southeast’s club baseball team.

He is also the vice president of finance for Southeast’s PRSSA chapter. He has attended two regional and one national PRSSA conferences, and was a participant in Southeast’s 2018 Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) program.

Wendel, who graduates this December, hopes to pursue a career with a public relations agency.

“I chose to pursue a career in public relations because I found a passion for sharing stories, connecting with people and the challenge of adapting to a constantly changing industry,” he said.

The education he has received at Southeast has helped to prepare him for a career, Wendel said. His experiences with faculty and the Department of Mass Media have been the highlights of his time at the University.

“I chose Southeast because Cape Girardeau is my hometown, and the Department of Mass Media is second to none,” he said. “Dr. Susan Gonders and Dr. Sarah Cavanah have provided me with a fantastic foundation of knowledge and set me up for success in the exciting, challenging public relations industry.”