Washington State University alumnus Brad Rawlins has earned one of the nation’s top scholarly awards in public relations.

The assistant professor of communications at Brigham Young University received the Pathfinder Award November 20 in New York City. He was recognized by the Institute of Public Relations for “a whole body of work through a number of years.”

Rawlins’s research examines ethical practice in public relations, especially moral decision making. He hopes to use concepts such as authenticity, accountability, and responsibility to show the need for transparency in communications.

“If you can help an organization become more transparent, then that organization has to account for what it’s doing, not only to itself but to others who have a stake in the behavior and the practice of that particular organization,” he says.

Rawlins (’87 Comm., For. Lang. & Lit.)  worked on his research on and off for eight years as a faculty member at James Madison University in Virginia. It wasn’t until he joined the Brigham Young communications faculty in 2000 that he began rigorous research in the area.

“Look at all the corporations that are having problems with ethics,” says Don Stacks of  the University of Miami School of Communication. “He [Rawlins] was pushing this research before all that happened. Brad has set a path that others are following.”

The Pathfinder Award is usually given to scholars who are at the end of their careers.

“His work has been, for such a young man, an outstanding array of very effective research,” says John W. Felton, president and CEO of the Institute of Public Relations.

Rawlins, the son of Mary Jo and V. Lane Rawlins, president of WSU, shares credit for his research with Kevin Stoker, assistant professor of communications at BYU.