A recent Penn State World Campus graduate was on a team that finished in second place in a national media competition for college students. 

Yanelis Funez received a $3,000 scholarship as one of the runners up in the 2021 Washington Media Scholars Foundation’s Media Plan Case Competition. Funez, who graduated in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications and has served six years in the Army, was paired with a student from Ithaca College. 

A first-generation college graduate, Funez is elated to finish her undergraduate studies with such an honor.  

“Enlisting into the Army was one thing,” she said, “but holding my diploma for the first time and then competing in such a rigorous competition truly made me feel as though I am my mother’s wildest dreams. I faced many challenges, but I never gave up because losing was never an option.” 

In the competition, Funez and her teammate created a strategic plan to buy media advertising based on a hypothetical public policy issue. They used real-world data from research firms to create a plan to effectively reach their target audience. 

Funez and her teammate qualified for the competition’s semifinals, in which they had to write a paper about their plan. After they qualified for the finals, they gave a presentation about their plan over Zoom to judges from media firms. 

“In the field of communications, we're always learning something new, and things are constantly changing,” Funez said. “Being able to apply what I’ve learned in school and also from real-life scenarios and into the competition definitely made me feel that I chose the right major.” 

Funez enrolled through Penn State World Campus in 2017. For the past three years, she was stationed in Belgium working as a logistics supervisor in the Army. She was still stationed there in May when she graduated and could not attend the spring 2021 commencement ceremony at Penn State’s University Park campus.

She has since returned to the United States to transition out of the Army and search for her first job outside of the military. She said she hopes to be a media content creator. 

“I love being able to bring something new to life, to bring something new to the table,” Funez said. She said she likes “working with a team that has the drive to just be creative and let their thoughts come to life.” 

The faculty from the Penn State Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications administer the bachelor’s degree in strategic communications and teach its courses. One of the faculty members, Director of eLearning Initiatives Michelle Baker, encouraged Funez to progress through the competition. 

“This competition was a great opportunity, and Yanelis was all in from the start,” Baker said. “She met with faculty members to get insight and feedback about the competition, and she jumped in with both feet. She is a real go-getter, and I’m so happy for her. I’m hopeful that, in the future, more of our online students will take advantage of these opportunities. She’s paved the way.” 

The Media Scholars scholarship is one of the scholarships that Funez received during her time at Penn State. She was a recipient of a Bellisario-Communication Scholarship from the Bellisario College of Communications. 

Learn more about the degree on the Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications website.