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Montclair SCM Student Team Finishes Second in National Case Study Competition

Posted in: School of Communication and Media News

A group of five students standing and smiling with the letters P R S S A on the wall behind them.
The ’23-24 SCM Bateman team (left to right): Gina-Marie Zoccoli, Diana Ochoa-Perez, Kaylee Seitz, Gabriella Castillo and Rianna Cafaro.

A team of Montclair State School of Communication & Media students finished second in the prestigious Bateman Case Study Competition, hosted by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). The national contest challenges student teams to design, implement, and measure a public relations campaign to support the goals of a real-world client.

This year’s client was Culturs, a global lifestyle network that enhances community and fosters human connection between cross-cultural populations including racially and culturally blended individuals. The missing “e” in Culturs represents the often-hidden diversities of these populations. 

Throughout the academic year, the Montclair team conducted extensive research with the Montclair community to discover insights for its robust on and offline campaign.  Their findings highlighted that more than half of students who identify as multi-ethnic have felt out of place or not fully belonging to one culture; and that 60% of respondents felt their culture was represented on campus but didn’t feel fully seen or heard.

The Montclair Culturs campaign was developed by five SCM students: Rianna Cafaro (’24), Gabriella Castillo (’24), Diana Ochoa-Perez (’24), Kaylee Seitz (’25) and Gina-Marie Zoccoli (’25). Professor Mary Scott served as the faculty advisor for the third consecutive year, SVP Communications at United Entertainment Group Heter Myers was the industry advisor and SCM Professor Erin Weinberg provided critical support and guidance to the team. 

“Participating in this competition provided my team and I a deep understanding of and experience in executing a PR campaign from start to finish.” Cafaro said. “Montclair Culturs created a movement that soared beyond our expectations and I am so proud of the work we accomplished.”

The Montclair students advanced to the finals of the competition against teams from BYU and winner University of Florida, and over eight other semi-final teams that received honorable mention. PRSSA received 45 campagn entries. 

The Montclair Culturs campaign set out to establish an inclusive community that celebrates cultural diversity through engaging conversations and shared learning experiences, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of multiculturalism.

Highlights of the Montclair team’s campaign and presentation to a panel of judges on May 2 in New York City included:

  • The Melting Pot Meals :  a collaborative digital and printed cookbook featuring Montclair students sharing cultural dishes from around the world and the significance of these recipes.
  • Cultur-ella: Inspired by Coachella, the team hosted a festival celebrating the cultures of Montclair State through dance, music, and art. The more than 300 attendees made cultural bracelets, danced alongside the LASO dance troupe, Montclair West African Drumming, and influencer Jerseyy Joe, and also learned about the many cultural organizations on campus including Daughta Speaks, the Dominican Student Organization (DSO), the Korean Culture and Language Association (KCLA), the Latin American Student Organization(LASO), the Mexican-American Student Association (MASA), and the Veteran and Military Resource office.
  • Cultural Print: More than 500 people took the pledge to embrace cultural diversity and shared their personal cultural print on our world map representing their heritage and ethnicities.
  • Living in Full Color: An Intimate Conversation on Culture:   a curated conversation with NBC and Telemundo, Montclair faculty and students on multiculturalism and 21st-century diversity.  Kicked off by Provost Junius Gonzales and hosted by Associate Provost for Hispanic Initiatives and International Programs Katia Paz Goldfarb, the event featured WNBC reporter Checkey Beckford and  Telemundo 47’s Ashley Chaparro, Yessi Hernandez and Alexa Rodriguez.  

“Participating in this year’s Bateman Challenge was a dream assignment for our team especially since we saw an authentic impact on the entire campus community,” Professor Scott said. “Inspired by our client Culturs’ mission, the team built and successfully implemented a campaign that provided a platform and addressed the unmet needs of our richly diverse campus – enabling important conversations, rich storytelling, fostering a more connected community and a commitment to future actions. I am immensely proud of our students who worked incredibly hard to execute a strategic campaign that was worthy of this national recognition.”


About the School of Communication and Media: The School of Communication and Media offers a range of dynamic programs in communication and media to a talented and diverse student population of over 1,800. Offering degrees in film and television, social media and public relations, advertising, journalism and digital media, sports communication, communication and media studies, animation and visual effects, and an MA devoted to strategic communication, the School prepares the next generation of communication and media practitioners and leaders. The School houses award-winning student programs that include WMSC RadioThe Montclarion newspaper,  Hawk Communications Agency, the Red Hawk Sports NetworkHawk+ OTT streaming platform, and News Lab, as well as the Center for Cooperative Media, which serves the public by working to grow and strengthen local journalism. Student projects and programs have recently received national recognition from PRSSA’s Bateman Competition, an Edward R Murrow Award, several Marconi Award nominations, and a College Television Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Media Contact: Keith Green, School of Communication and Media, 973-655-3701 or