There is (Not) a Feminist World Inside Your Phone – The Emoji Movie

By: Autumn Barszczowski

Before I begin, I should note that there will be spoilers. For my purposes, I cannot avoid them. I apologize in advance if you care enough to eventually see the Emoji Movie.

With every new animated movie, feminists like myself are scouting for strong female characters who do not fall subject to the typical romantic plots that overshadow their ambitions and dreams. We are looking for characters who have more than marriage as their end goal.

Walking into the theater at promptly 4:40 p.m. on July 28, I wondered what I would get out of the movie. I admit, I had grown to ironically love the movie. Everyone around me was sick of hearing “Emoji Movie, coming July 28.” I kept reminding myself that I had this ridiculous, silly movie to look forward to amidst the nightmare that is the United States.

We could escape the serious implications of our president’s actions for an hour and a half to listen to stories about emojis.

However, as the movie progressed, I stopped thinking about the pure joy that came from watching this cinematic masterpiece, and instead began to consider how Jailbreak, a female emoji, would be as a character.


In this movie, Gene the meh emoji is on a mission to fix the fact that he expresses too many emotions. In a society that expects him to only be “meh,” he has to fix his “malfunction” so that he will not be deleted. He ends up meeting Hi-5 who agrees to find a hacker that will help Gene solve the issue before the anti-virus bots can send him to the trash.


Jailbreak, the “emo” female hacker, starts out as our representation of people who successfully go against society’s roles and expectations. In the snippets I had caught before seeing the movie, she seemed to be Gene’s guide in his journey to the firewall where he would be able to restore himself to his original purpose as a “meh” emoji and rid himself of malfunctions.


Everything I knew about her led me to believe she could be a strong female character amongst the wild creation that is the Emoji Movie. I thought for a second that maybe, just maybe, we could salvage something from this movie.

Boy, was I disappointed.

There were clear moments where it seemed like the writers had considered establishing Jailbreak as a feminist character . In fact, I would guess that they had put a solid thirty minutes of research about feminism that they could sprinkle into her character periodically.

For example, the writers start by “surprising” Hi-5 and Gene, who wrongfully assumed that the top hacker would be male. Instead of a male, they find Jailbreak and are forced to say “she” instead of “he.” As a result, the writers show that the best in an industry are not always male.

Then, when she first meets Gene and Hi-5, she tries to brush them off, but she quickly realizes that by helping them, she could help her own hidden mission and dream. It is only when she finds out that she can benefit from the mission that she decides to help them. Thus, Jailbreak isn’t written to be willing to help wherever she is needed, the usual female role. Instead, she has purpose and seeks missions that benefit her goals.

Later, she encounters a moment where Gene and Hi-5 interrupt her thought and begin to claim an idea she has for their escape as their own. Instead of letting them, she firmly reminds them that the idea was in fact hers and she would not stand to have it taken from her. By standing up for herself, she shows that females do not always have to take what is given to them.

But the turn comes in the scenes that follow where we continually hear about how she helped a princess emoji to escape the phone through the cloud. Instead of discussing that journey, she lets Gene and Hi-5 ramble on about the stories they had heard. This is when my brother turned to me and said “I bet you $10 she is the princess emoji.”

I didn’t have to bet him anything because I knew that he was right. I watched as her princess crown is revealed and any hopes of her achieving her goals was lost.


Sure, the writers tried to develop her back story with minor emoji history details, like saying that she had left Textopolis (their world) because women could only be a princess or a bride in the first set of emojis.

What they seem to forget though is the underlying romantic plot they thread between Jailbreak and Gene. The moment that plot starts, all hope is lost for the seemingly feminist character.

By the end of the movie, Jailbreak is willing to give up her dream of escaping the phone to stay with Gene. Instead of watching out for number one like she had always done, she remembers that Gene asked her “What good is it to be number one if there aren’t any other numbers.”


In that moment, Gene is telling her that she does not need to put herself first because her ambitions are useless without someone else to share it with. Unfortunately for Jailbreak, by not putting herself first, she gives up the opportunity to escape. Instead, she returns to a slightly improved Textopolis for a guy she has just met.

Overall, the movie was everything I expected it to be: Garbage.

But man, I loved watching every second of that train wreck. If you’re into lame jokes and the recycled plot line of Wreck-It Ralph, this is the movie for you. 10/10 would recommend.

Originally Published on Her Campus – Point Park

Tekko Brings a New Sense of Community to Downtown Pittsburgh

Convention goers attend the 14th annual Japanese Pop Culture convention at David L. Lawrence’s Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.

By: Autumn Barszczowski
This video contains interviews from the attendees featured throughout the article as well as clips from the wedding ceremony, attendees dancing, the Masquerade skits, and more.

With Tekko convention attendees by their side, Shawn and Michelle Gallant got married dressed as video game characters during the annual convention here last weekend.

Meanwhile, others among the 7,600 in attendance, including Dominic Malloy and Stephanie Guerdeen, praised Tekko’s improved sexual harassment policies that prevents unwarranted advances.

Also for the first time, Tekko expanded the support of its own community by creating new policies, a cosplay repair room, expanding the game room, and much more.

“I think Pittsburgh is really accepting of the Tekko community, mostly because… it’s a weird thing,” said Malloy, explaining why Pittsburgh is so supportive. “If we are going to be weird, we are going to be the best at it.”

The convention, in its 14th year, was staged from April 7-10. It had a 30% increase in attendance from 2015.

This year, Tekko, which cost $50 for a regular pass, $75 for a premium pass, and $150 for the limited 25 “Rockstar” passes, hosted a number of voice actors and musical guests, including Marisha Ray, Matt Mercer, Micah Solos, Austin Tindle, Chris Patton, Back-On and DJ Bass.

This year saw an increase of awareness as well, including an appearance by Mayor Bill Peduto, who declared the weekend to be Tekko 2016 Week.

As Tekko’s city wide recognition grew, the officials of Tekko worked on making the attendees comfortable, including the Gallants, who were the first couple to ever be married at Tekko.

The couple was dressed as Talon and Cassiopeia from “League of Legends” during their ceremony. It was officiated during the annual Masquerade, where attendees danced, did walk-ons in their cosplays, and put on skits in character. Their bridesmaids and groomsmen were also dressed as characters from the game.

Shawn Gallant and Michelle Gallant pose outside of the Main Stage on April 9 2016 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. This is shortly after their on stage ceremony during Tekko’s Annual Masquerade. – Photo via Autumn Barszczowski

Tekko had been supportive of the couple getting married during the convention, going as far to create them their own bride groom badges, with unique badges for their wedding guests as well.

This is Shawn Gallant’s custom Rockstar Badge for Tekko 2016. This was made special in order to include a groom character made specifically for Gallant. – Photo via Autumn Barszczowski 
This is Michelle Gallant’s custom Rockstar Badge for Tekko 2016. This was made special in order to include a bride character made specifically for Gallant. – Photo via Autumn Barszczowski 

“They were on-board 110% from the very beginning… this, by far, the most-organized and most receptive [convention I’ve been to],” Shawn said.

As for the rest of the convention, other cosplayers, like Malloy and Guerdeen, were enjoying the individual attention given to their cosplays by the Tekko Community.

Being dressed as Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza attracted the attention of “Hamilton the Musical” fanatics all over the convention.  While the pair of friends gloried in adulation stemming from the attention given to their cosplays, they were happy to turn the attention to Tekko’s new sexual harassment policy and how it has improved over the past few years.

This badge was created with a bride and groom character specifically for the family and friends of Shawn and Michelle Gallant. These badges were only created for those who knew the bride and groom in order to make the ceremony unique. – Photo via Autumn Barszczowski 

In the past, there had been incidents of harassment in which attendees had felt beleaguered in their cosplay. This year, Tekko chose to address those past problems by making it clear in their new policy that harassment is defined by the victim.

“The harassment policy has been very clear and has been… very everywhere,” said Guerdeen, “I can’t speak about other cosplayers, but I always feel happy and welcome here.”

Both Malloy and Guerdeen went on to discuss how not only the attendees have supported this policy, but how much this policy means to cosplayers and the development of the cosplay culture.

Along with improved policies, Tekko also worked to expand activities provided to attendees, including a larger game room that hosted Tekko’s first “Escape Room,” in which attendees worked through a series of puzzles to find their way out of a wooden room.

Scott Swank was a part of a Saturday team that went through the Escape Room, a day in which all the time slots had been sold out.

This is Scott Swank’s Escape the Room team on Saturday night after they escaped within 44 minutes. Swank is featured in red on the right of the group. – Photo via Autumn Barszczowski

While he was not in cosplay, he was there because he was a fan of escape rooms and he was excited for the convention to host this activity, as well as the expansion done on the game room this year.

“They are just offering a nice experience, which is a great way to support the people who go,” said Swank.

Tekko also hosted their first cosplay repair room, which fixed a variety of cosplays throughout the convention. It run by Louisa Fan, who was cosplaying as Nephthys from “Puzzles and Dragons” and had worked at other convention’s repair rooms in the past.

The room had characters such a stormtroopers gluing helmets, Thor adding felt to his fabric, and anime characters repairing cosplay props with glue.

At closing ceremonies on Sunday, she spoke of the positive response that attendees had of the repair room, including comments such as “Jesus was saved by cosplay repair,” referring to a cosplayer who chose to dress up as Jesus.

Most of Fan’s staff had previously worked at or attended Tekko and say that this had been their best experience.

“I love cosplay repair, so having other people be like, ‘I think I had even more fun working as a volunteer,’ that was just really awesome,” said Fan.

This is Louisa Fan and Lane Ryan working to hot glue a Storm Trooper helmet during the convention on Saturday afternoon. – Photo via Autumn Barszczowski 


During a social hour on Friday night, Maegen McMillen discussed the process of putting this convention and other Pittsburgh Japanese Cultural Society, or Pitt JCS, events together, including how she has come to discover the importance of anime conventions to others.

Being apart of the Table Swap Project management means that McMillen is constantly on the go, making sure to advertise for Pitt JCS and Tekko during other local conventions.

“I’ve driven thousand of miles for conventions… [but] you do it for the kids,” said McMillen, discussing how many attendees have spoken to her about how the Tekko family has helped them to keep moving forward and to find their own support system within the convention.

Some of the attendees who have praised the support system included the Tekko Gakkou panelists Chelsea Marshall dressed as Ayase Eli and Brea Ross cosplaying as Nozomi Tojo, both from “Love Live.” The couple worked with Tekko Gakkou, the educational track at Tekko in order to create LGBT+ informative panels this year.

In their panel, the couple discussed the importance of LGBT+ representation and the historical backgrounds of Japanese culture that influence these particular representations.

The influences for their first panel came from their own personal experience and connections to the LGBT+ community and they made it clear that panels like these were important to have, especially in a community that has a large portion of LGBT+ people.

“We decided to debut this panel here [because of the support] and it was an overwhelming success. It went so much better than we ever expected it to,” said Marshall.

The two believed that the success stemmed from the support Tekko has given to their large LGBT+ community, including by advertising at Pittsburgh Pride.

As for the future, the couple believes that they will look at LGBT+ representation in other areas in order to continue to educate the public on the issues and history.

“We are really interested in running panels that have a look at nerd culture and fandom culture and how those things intersect,” Ross said.

Outside of panels, people like Emily “Gale” Smith work to support the LGBT+ community at Tekko in other ways, including creating the Nightengale Needles booth found in Artist’s Alley.

Nightengale Needles has a large variety of LGBT+ products ranging from scarves, to blankets, and even pride pals, a monster that has a pride heart that depict the pride flags for a variety of sexual and gender identities.

Smith has been a vendor at Tekko for seven years and says that meeting people through her booth has been inspirational.

“My booth inspires a lot of deep and sometimes really emotionally loaded conversations. I like to think I learn as much as I am able to impart,” Smith said.

Along with a number of artists and dealers like Smith, there were also 250+ volunteer staff members that worked operations like bag check, security, registration, and much more.

One staff member, Josh Palmquisd had been attending Tekko for over eight years, but this was his first year working the convention.

He had heard from other friends about what it was like to work at Tekko and found that during this year’s convention, he grew a new appreciation for all that staff members do for attendees.

He believes that these volunteers go above and beyond by dedicating their time to making the convention run smoothly and to address any issues that are reported.

One of his experiences this year included helping someone to find their badge, because he knows that as an attendee, he himself would have been upset to lose it and wanted to go above and beyond to help them out.

“We all volunteer our time and I think we are all a bunch of good people trying to do the right thing,” said Palmquisd.

Meanwhile, Tekko not only inspires its own volunteer members for the convention, but for volunteers in the Pittsburgh Community.

Convention attendee Rachel Makary, founder of Volunteer Princesses and cosplaying as Judy Hopps from Disney’s “Zootopia,” discussed how her own cosplays made for conventions have brightened the lives of the kids that she has met through her organization.

She no longer just uses cosplay for herself, but she uses the cosplay to help bring the community together, both inside and outside of the convention.

After winning last year’s Masquerade in the Western Category, Makary also gained more confidence not only in her cosplays, but in herself by performing a skit as Drizella Tremaine from “Cinderella.”

“We didn’t think that our cosplays were popular, and I didn’t feel very confident in mine, but we went out and everyone loved it,” said Makary, discussing the best experience she has had at Tekko.

The support of people’s cosplays is a common theme found in Tekko, and the new policies and resources have only reinforced the need to support Tekko’s inner-community, as well as the Pittsburgh community.

At the end of the weekend during closing ceremonies, the Pitt JCS team announced the Tekko 2017 will be held from April 6th to the 9th. Tickets were available at ceremonies and will be available online in the upcoming months.

Originally Published on Her Campus – Point Park


Shaping the future of America: Doctoral Student, Maureen Anderson

Charter school teachers start doctoral program at Point Park University in order to design and create a new technology and trades charter school in the Pittsburgh area.

By: Autumn Barszczowski

Charter school teachers Maureen Anderson and Angela Musto were chatting one day on a subway ride about wanting to prepare students for careers through process-based learning.

The concept is unlike vocational schools, although still aims to support students who learn better with hands-on experiences.

“[They are] what we see as the foundation for America… not just the laborers,” said Musto.

These teachers are pursuing doctorates in education at Point Park University and competing in a new school contest with hopes of establishing a charter school in Pittsburgh that will accomplish just that.

Musto is from Normalville, Pa., and earned her Bachelor of Science degree at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and her master’s at Capella University.

Meanwhile, Anderson grew up in Beaver County, Pa., and earned her bachelor’s degree at the main campus of Pennsylvania State University and her master’s at Robert Morris University, including her teaching certification.

Anderson is still working for a successful downtown Pittsburgh charter school as an activities manager and science teacher/educational leader along with Musto.

They are both currently pursuing doctorates in order to create a school that would prepare those students for careers after graduation.

As they study for their doctorates of education at Point Park, they are laying out the designs for a new high school called Career Tech Charter School. This school will be a technology and trade focused school that works to educate students through hands-on experiences and project-based learning.

The charter school project started in the fall of 2014, on a subway ride into downtown Pittsburgh. Anderson, an activities manager at a downtown charter school, decided to share her idea with a fellow teacher, Musto, a physics and educational administrator,  someone who she knew would give her honest criticism. Her idea was about a charter focused on catering to students who need more hands-on experiences in learning.

However, instead of offering criticism, Musto just replied that she was in, that she wanted to be a part of the project that would work to bring this school to life.

Musto, agreeing to take part, gave Anderson the motivation to create a plan that would help them to achieve their goals of forming Career Tech.

While establishing the foundation of this school, they realized that the school they were picturing was not traditional.

“It’s not a vo-tech school and it’s not a career tech ed school. It’s sort of a synthesis of a variety of schools put together. A more innovative and more in line with disruptive education,” said Anderson.

She discussed that this would be process-based learning where they have a way to learn trade skills that are not taught as much anymore and that they would be able to earn an associate’s degree or certificate while going through high school.

This would help students to feel so empowered when they graduated to either continue their education or have the resources to jump right into their career field.

Anderson has gone through a series of her own careers since high school, from a worker of the federal government, to a career readiness teacher as well as an activities manager at an award-winning downtown Pittsburgh charter school.

Maureen Anderson poses in Market Square of downtown Pittsburgh on a March evening. This was during the reveal of a new art piece displayed in the square that night and after the interview where she discussed Career Tech Charter. – Photo via Autumn Barszczowski 

Having grown up in a blue-collar family, she understands the struggle some students face when attending a high school that nowadays the focus is on getting students into colleges rather than into career fields.

The goal of Career Tech is to help those students earn their high school degree and valuable career credentials in the technology, engineering, and trades areas while in high school so that they can enter the workforce prepared or continue their education.

Previous students of Anderson’s, like Bill Vogel, an application engineer, discussed the importance of Career Tech’s values in the engineering field, where many workers are not ready for the hands-on projects.

“Introducing this type of [tech and trade education is] only going to help and get people on the right track of where they are going,” Vogel said, emphasizing that a middle realm of students trained to work with their hands was missing, instead being replaced by workers who have the degree but hardly any hands-on experience.

As Anderson began to inform her network of colleagues and past students about her plans with Musto, most were supportive, and those who were not told her that she was not the person to take on this job.

However, while working as a career readiness teacher, Anderson encountered a variety of  students who struggled to identify and explore viable career options in the technology and trades field because they felt their only option was a four-year college degree.

Over the years of working with Carol Moye as teachers, Moye began to realize how passionate Anderson was about making sure those students got the support they needed.

Moye discussed one particularly difficult student that was constantly failing his classes and not putting forth effort.  “[Anderson] wouldn’t let him quit and you know, I remember a lot of her desire to start this school is based on this kid and other people like him,” said Moye.

In order to get this school started, Anderson decided, along with Musto, that they would take part in XQ: The Super School Project, a competition geared towards finding innovative high schools and funding five of the top teams with $10 Million each in order to create their school.

Currently, they are waiting for a response to see if they will continue onto phase three, although they have already begun the work on the phase in case they are chosen.

Anderson has always been prepared for the next few steps of this competition and has a plethora of connections with people who will be able to help Musto and herself achieve whatever component is needed.

“She is the people-person,” said Musto. “She has done an amazing job on building up a system of support and putting the right people in the right seats on the bus.”

This includes the creation of student surveys, as well as a video submission, for XQ in order to show the judges what students think about the foundation of their school and what youth are looking for in a high school experience.

Other plans for creating this school have been to pursue doctorates of education at PPU, as well as earning principal certifications within the next three years.

Vogel and Moye both agreed that one of the biggest barriers of this project will be obtaining a charter from the Pittsburgh Public School District or Pittsburgh Board of Education in order to create this school, although Vogel believes that it will be hard because they will have to convince everyone that Career Tech is not just another vocational school.

Anderson has been enjoying the feedback from students and professionals about the different parts of Career Tech and how they can work to improve the high school experience for students.

Originally Published on Her Campus – Point Park

The 12th annual South Side Soup Contest brings something new to Pittsburgh’s favorite bar crawl

South Side community holds the 12th annual soup contest along with 50 businesses and restaurants all across the South Side Flats and Works

By: Autumn Barszczowski
All Photos via South Side Soup Contest 

On a sunny day in February, people from all walks of life, such as VIP ticket-buyer Alicia Kenney, tasted soups from various restaurants stationed in local businesses as she walked the streets of South Side in search of the best soup.

Along with Kenney and about 1,200 others, including Jacki Delaney and Celine Roberts, attendees of the South Side Soup Contest enjoyed a variety of soups that ranged anywhere from Eat‘n Park’s Potato Soup to The Smiling Mooses’ Chipotle Chickpea Chili

Every year for the past twelve years, the South Side Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Brashear Association, have hosted the South Side Soup Contest, that allows 25 restaurants and bars to collaborate with 25 businesses in order to bring awareness to the “daytime South Side.” This year the event was from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 21, anywhere between 10th Street and 27th Street in the South Side.

The picture above depicts the containers of soup given to participants in the South Side Soup Contest. This was at Stop 25 during the contest on Feb. 21 2016 of this year. The people hosting this event wanted to show people some of the soups that were offered during their event so people got a taste of what the contest is all about.

“It’s basically an experience where you get the best of both worlds; both retail and restaurants in one location,” said Jennifer Jeffers, the event chair of the contest. “It’s a way to experience daytime South Side and the best of what it has to offer.”

It was started by the South Side Local Development Company in order to support the business corridor, since most of the attention has gone to the bars and restaurants in the South Side, particularly at night.

Over the past twelve years, the event has grown from just generating traffic for businesses; now they are also earning money and food donations for the Brashear Association and their food pantry since they added both General Admission tickets for $25 and VIP tickets for $100.

The VIP experience began two years ago and is a party within a party. It includes a pre-event reception at City Theatre with coffee, mimosas, and pastries. There is an honorary meet and greet with Rick Sebak as well as other types of entertainment,“swag bags,” and soup tastings only for VIP ticket holders.

“I really loved that there were unlimited mimosas,” said VIP attendee, Alicia Kenney. It was her fourth or fifth year at the contest and she said she enjoys the event because it is a great way to try soups that you would never try on a regular basis.

While the contest only started with two awards, which were best soup and first runner-up, the contest has now grown to include four awards, including runner-up: Best Overall Soup, Best Host, Best Vegetarian Soup, and Most Unique Soup.

This year the Best Overall Soup went to Carmella’s Plates & Pints for its Mushroom Bisque with Crispy Duck Root Vegetable soup.

Workers at Carmella’s Plates & Pints pose with the People’s Choice trophy won for their Crispy Duck Root Vegetable Soup. This took place at Carmella’s on February 21st after the contest had ended and winners were being announced. They were glad to pose with their trophy that will sit in their shop for the next year.

Carmella’s soup “was creamy, mushroomy…bacony…,” said Jacki Delany. She believed that the soup had a smokey taste and she was able to identify some of the particular flavors in the soup.

This was Delany’s first time attending the contest and she was excited, saying that she loved soup so much that she could eat it for three meals a day.

As for the first runner-up, the prize went to The Pub Chip Shop for its Beer Cheese Chowder.

It had a creamy base and attendees like Celine Roberts could taste potato and a little bit of bacon. People had spent the day raving about the soup and the contest in general.

This was only Roberts first time at the event but she seemed enthusiastic about it. “I love food. So anyway that I can eat food and help people, I want to be a part of,” said Roberts.

As for Best Host, Five Star Dentistry won for hosting Carmella’s Plates & Pints.

They had a S’mores station next to the line in the front of the building and while walking through the business with their cup of soup, they were able to grab free toothbrushes and toothpaste. When they exited the business, they were offered bottles of water as well as hot dogs made fresh on the grill.

The Best Vegetarian soup was Butternut Squash soup made by Stagioni, last year’s Best Overall Soup winner. “It is really warm and subtle,” said Lucretiz Collins.

The final award is Most Unique which went to Lin’s Asian Fusion for its Mango soup. They were the only soup “on ice” as the soup handlers told attendees as they walked into the building.

“It’s a little fruity, and sweet, but it has like a little tang after it,” said Judy Sippey.

She loved the event, particularly because the money goes to a good cause. “It’s also fun to walk the streets carrying a spoon,” said Sippey.

Others were happy to praise the event for what it does for the South Side neighborhood.

“It was Soup-er,” said Janet Edwards, with what she called her “soup posse.” She believed that the event was representative of Pittsburgh.

Even the Presenting Sponsor, First National Bank, a sponsor who has contributed since the beginning, was ecstatic about the impact of the event.

“We are helping out the community that we serve,” said Ron Giulianelli, Senior Vice President and Marketing Manager at FNB. “It’s a way to get the food of the restaurant or bar establishment out there as well as driving consumers into specific businesses.

Originally Published on Her Campus – Point Park

Pittsburgh PRSA hosts annual Renaissance Award

Mayor Bill Peduto along with PR agencies across Pittsburgh attend dinner to receive awards for their accomplishments in the past year

By: Autumn Barszczowski


This is the program for the PRSA Awards event that attendees were given that highlighted the people involved in organizing the event as well as the order that prizes were given out in. It gave attendees a chance to connect to the organization through social media as well. – Photo via Autumn Barszczowski 

When told that he was a public relations group’s “Communicator of the Year,” Mayor Bill Peduto joked that it is probably because he is always available.

He said folks can direct message him on Twitter, as well as texting him, but to climb through his window is better than sending him a message on Linkedin.

Every year, Pittsburgh’s chapter of the Public Relations Society of America holds a Renaissance Awards dinner to honor agencies from all over the city of Pittsburgh and their accomplishments in events, fundraisers, campaigns, and more.

“We’re going to be a city that learns to handle growth,” said the mayor, in response to the president of Pittsburgh’s Chapter of PRSA Steve Radick’s comment, which is to keep people in the city of Pittsburgh with communication and innovation.

During a dinner of carrot ginger soup and Peruvian style free-range chicken with tri-color quinoa and chimichurri sauce, the group presented awards in 17 categories, of both individual and collective achievements.

The mayor wasn’t the only winner of the night. Other agencies won for accomplishments in digital/social media campaigns, community relations/public service campaigns, and awards for special events, observances, or fundraisers.

The PRSA works to highlight the previous year’s accomplishments from PR agencies and individuals in order to learn from each other and create better ideas for the upcoming year, according to Steve Radick, president of Pittsburgh’s Chapter of PRSA.

“The Renaissance Awards gives an opportunity to look at success the PR community had” said Radick.

Along with these agency awards, Rachel Willis, a sophomore from Duquesne University and a double major in Public Relations and International Relations, was awarded with the Bob O’Gara Scholarship. The scholarship worth $2,000 was established to recognize outstanding public relations students for all of their hard work.

Students applying for the scholarship were asked to write an essay explaining what Public Relations meant to them. According to Willis, PR allows people to build relationships, a community, and gives them a way to engage with others. “To me, together that means we can impact others and affect change,” Willis said of the PR community.

The Agency of The Year Award went to The Motherhood for their Stork OTC campaign, which compiled blog posts from mothers about their difficulty in conceiving and the options that they found that could assist them in their process. They also hosted live Twitter chats in which they helped to promote the sales of the Stork OTC.

The ceremony ended with The Motherhood also being named “Best in Show” out of all the agencies in attendance, but the only agency out of 87 to receive a perfect score from the judges.

The Renaissance Hall of Fame Award, which went to Bob Oltmanns of OPR Group, LLC. During his speech he discussed his time in the PR field, leading up to that moment.

“This business is fun if you hang around long enough,” said Oltmanns, during his acceptance speech. He was nominated by fellow colleagues in PRSA, including Kenneth P. Service, Vice Chancellor of Communications at the University of Pittsburgh.

Service was inducted into the PRSA College of Fellows in 1998, four years before Oltmanns in 2002, according to the PRSA website.

These Renaissance Awards are “good for people to get to know each other and to learn from each other…to learn different ways of doing things,” said Service.

Other winners include Giant Eagle, Gatesman+Dave, Smith Brothers Agency and more, which can be found on the PRSA’s website.

Originally Published on Her Campus – Point Park