Story: Lisa Sollie | Photo: Cody Ingram

After spending more than four years studying to be an athletic trainer, first at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and then the University of West Alabama, Mahkayla Young abruptly switched her major to integrated marketing communications. Some might say that Young, the team photographer for the UWA football program, simply called an ‘audible’ because she knew the field of athletic training wasn’t the right play for her.

“Although my parents never finished college, they were familiar with athletic training and were confident I would have no trouble getting a job after I graduated,” the Ocean Springs, Mississippi native recalled. “But when I changed my major at the last minute with one semester left in the program, that freaked them out. They also didn’t understand IMC and the opportunities available to me through this degree program — but I knew it was where I always belonged.” And so did her professors, who presented Young with the IMC Dymond Award at the UWA College of Liberal Arts Honors Day in April. Named after Dymond Hannon, a rising star in IMC who died unexpectedly in 2013, the award is the highest recognition given to a senior integrated marketing communications student whose contributions best represented the IMC program in the past year.

Dr. Amy Jones, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, presents Mahkayla Young (r) the IMC Dymond Award.

“Dymond was the first student in our early days to fully embrace what we were trying to do with the IMC program,” explained Greg Jones, chair of UWA’s Communication and Creative Arts program. “Like Dymond, Mahkayla is a natural leader who consistently sets the bar for those around her in the classroom and professional settings. I have no doubt she will become one of the most successful IMC graduates this program has produced.”

“Mahkayla represents the spirit of the IMC Dymond Award,” added Dr. Amy Jones, UWA’s Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Eager to learn, she takes time to teach others once she has mastered a skill and consistently strives to improve her work and the work of others around her.”

Young has flourished and credits two tenants for which IMC is known as the reason: real-world experience and free reign to create. Through the program, she designed a merchandise page for their client, UWA’s Cahaba Biodiversity Center, and led a video project with UWA President Ken Tucker to promote IMC’s Trivia Night. Young also held multiple mini-photo sessions in IMC’s studio in Wallace Hall. Appointed to the Alabama Student Retention Council by Greg Jones, Young and other college students around the state spent the last year trying to determine why graduates were leaving Alabama in droves. At the council’s last meeting of the year, the students presented their ideas to Alabama lawmakers in Montgomery.

“Before IMC, I never realized I could express my love of sports artistically and creatively, but now I’m looking forward to applying for internships with several sports teams nationwide,” said Young. “Persistence is the key, so even if I don’t initially end up doing what I envisioned, I discover new job opportunities I can explore with my degree daily.”