Page 19 - FOXTALK Fall 2012

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Fall 2012
PR concentration gets a makeover
New options offer students important experience earlier in career
ith factors like social media
and the Internet,
the profession of public relations is not the
same as it was 10 years ago. As the field
of public relations changes, so should the
curriculum. Associate professor of public relations Dr. Mark
Van Dyke began the process of changing the public relations
curriculum about four years ago.
Van Dyke said the last time the public relations curriculum
was revised was in 1997.
“Think about what’s happened in the meantime,” Van Dyke
said of the public relations profession.
In February 2011, Van Dyke and his team were finally ready
to unveil the new curriculum. It will give students more
writing experience earlier in their academic careers and give
students an idea of what public relations is earlier in their
Van Dyke said that since arriving at Marist as a professor in
2004, students have expressed they want more writing experi-
ence. Currently, students can take COM 370, the main public
relations course as late as senior year. Van Dyke said this was
a problem for many students because they were not equipped
with adequate writing samples when they searched for intern-
ships or jobs.
Professional lecturer Jennie Donohue, who worked with Van
Dyke on the curriculum revisions, said giving students writing
experience earlier was essential.
“Earlier writing experience is what future employers are going
to want to see,” Donohue said.
As well as offering earlier writing, the public relations con-
centration will be divided into two specializations. Students
will choose to study either the public relations management
specialization or the integrated communications specialization.
Donohue said the two tracks are reflective of the multitude
of opportunities open to students with a degree in public
The management public relations track will serve as the tra-
ditional PR role. Van Dyke said students who know they want
to practice public relations would be encouraged to choose the
management track. According to the memorandum for the
concentration change, the management track “treats public
relations as a distinct function that is coordinated with other
communication functions.”
The integrated communications track would incorporate other
fields of study, such as marketing and advertising. According
to the memorandum, the integrated track “seeks to establish
and maintain profitable business relationships by managing
communications with customers and other key audiences in a
competitive marketplace.”
“The two tracks build in more flexibility,” Van Dyke said of
the new curriculum.
The new concentration will add specialized courses for the
tracks and also new courses that public relations students can
take as electives. Because of the addition of courses, Van Dyke
said some had to be deleted from the concentration as well.
Interpersonal Communication and Organizational
Communication will not be included in the new curricu-
lum. Other courses will be revised. For instance, COM
370—Public Relations, will become a 200-level course in
order to give students an idea of the nature of the industry
earlier in their academic careers. The course will also be titled
Fundamentals of Public Relations. The current Public Opinion
course will be titled Applied Research and Analytics, and the
Organizational Writing course will become a 200-level class
titled Public Relations Writing Tools.
Van Dyke said he hopes that the curriculum can someday get
certified by the Public Relations Society of America. PRSA
Certification in Education in PR is one of the highest distinc-
tions public relations curriculums can receive. Currently only
29 schools in the world are certified. Van Dyke hopes to make
Marist the 30th.
Donohue said receiving the accreditation by PRSA would be
great for the Marist public relations concentration.
“But I’m most proud of the positive feedback we’ve gotten
from alumni and current students,” Donohue said. “It opens a
lot of opportunities for our students.”
PR Curriculum:
• Fundamentals of PR Theory and Practice
• PR Writing Tools
• Applied Research and Analytics
• Communication Campaign Management
• Reputation and Relationship Management
• Case Studies in PR Management
• Integrated Strategies, Tactics and
• Case Studies in Integrated Communication