She’s only a junior journalism and history major at Eastern Kentucky University, but Jennifer Kaylyn Perkins is already making her own history as the winner of the 2018 Communication Professional of the Year award presented by the Kentucky Communication Association.
Not bad for someone who chose journalism “on a whim” and learned only through working for the Eastern Progress, the University’s weekly student-operated newspaper, that journalism was her “calling.”
Perkins, a 2016 graduate of South Laurel High School in London, Kentucky, has served as a reporter, opinions editor and news editor for the Progress. She was recognized particularly for her coverage of the EKU Board of Regents during the 2017-18 academic year, which included a successful Kentucky Open Meetings Law challenge.
The award is presented to a communicator in Kentucky or KCA region who has exhibited “an exemplary record of engagement, integration and application of communications in her or his field or work.” KCA President Siobhan Smith said Perkins’ work “set the bar for professional communicators and journalists across the state.”
Perkins said the experience “helped me grow, both as a journalist and as a person by pushing me out of my comfort zone. The Board of Regents is a very influential body, and I have a great deal of respect for each and every member who sits on the board.”
Perkins said she is reminded often of a sign outside the office door of one of her professors. The sign features a line of advice from the documentary “Tickling Giants”: Take a feather and tickle the foot of a giant.
“It’s a risk,” Perkins said. “Will the giant laugh or stomp on you? We should all, in our own ways, be tickling the giants.”
Perkins said her participation in EKU’s nationally prominent Honors Program and with the University’s nationally successful Mock Trial Program instilled confidence in her. “The Honors Program has helped me pursue my passion for history in a way that I never thought possible. If it weren’t for that program, I am not sure I would have had the courage to come abroad” – she was not able to accept her KCA award in person because she’s in Scotland this semester to film a documentary for her Honors thesis. “The Mock Trial Program has given me a voice. Before joining the program, I was quiet and not great at articulating my thoughts. After just one semester, my public speaking improved dramatically, but so did my interpersonal skills. I have confidence that I can hold a conversation with any group or person and … articulate my thoughts clearly and precisely.”
Even while she’s in Scotland, Perkins is still contributing to the Progress, serving as its first international correspondent and planning to cover the experiences of other EKU Education Abroad students.
Although many newspapers nationwide are trimming news staffs and editions, Perkins said she is “excited for the rejuvenation of student journalism. As a student, don’t believe your voice is any less powerful than those who have been in the industry for many years. Being a professional isn’t determined by the number of years you have been writing, but by the way you use this platform to help others.”
Perkins has also worked at The News Journal in Corbin, Kentucky, as a Kentucky Press Association intern. She aspires to become a reporter for either National Geographic or Scholastic magazine, or pursue a career in media law.