Posted At: March 10, 2011 9:33 AM
by Hannah McDaniel
The 2011 PRWeek Awards is scheduled for March 10, 2011*. The awards presented range from Healthcare Campaign of the Year to Agency of the Year and everything in between. Simply being a finalist as an organization or practitioner is a huge accomplishment that can solidify an organization’s credibility and reputation.
One of the most sought after awards is Education Program of the Year. This year’s top finalists are Brigham Young University, Georgetown University, New York University, Syracuse University and The University of Alabama. For the past two years, New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies has taken home the award.
This year, the competition is stiff. With a rapid increase in news turnaround and trends in social media, educators are looking outside the classroom to supplement their students’ education with the most up-to-date information within the field. These universities understand this need, and take full advantage of it.
“The field changes so quickly, just when you think you’ve got it figured out,” said Brenda Wrigley, associate professor and chair. “PR is everywhere now, the opportunities are boundless.”
Syracuse recently updated and revamped its public relations program to include a multimedia story-telling course, field trips and a hybrid curriculum between PR and business management, Wrigley said.
Wrigley said that students have the chance to take several day-trips to New York City each semester. Most of the trips are trade-specific and tailored by alumni of the university.
New York University adjunct professor Robert Noltenmeier said a business emphasis is “increasingly important,” along with access.
“Access. That is the secret to our success,” said Noltenmeier. “We are in New York, and we are accessible.”
NYU boasts joint faculty from top PR agencies and corporations, including Ketchum and Verizon. This connection stimulates an advantageous transition for students from pupil to practitioner.
Noltenmeier said that out-of-the-classroom experiences play a vital role to their students’ success. He said NYU encourages students to join practicums, participate in internships and attend guest lectures as often as possible.
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University’s department chair, Dr. Brad Rawlins, said its university prides itself on having a “mentoring environment” with an emphasis on strategic planning.
“The hallmark of our PR program is the area of strategic planning, and everything else works around that,” said Rawlins.
The university’s program uses strategic planning with an emphasis in evaluation for every course. Rawlins said that it is important that every tactic be tied to a certain strategy to get the best results.
Students are advised to get involved in the local PRSSA chapter, work in the student lab and partake in service-learning. The students are also required to have at least one internship before graduation.
The university’s PRSSA chapter was recently recognized as the top student chapter in the country.
The Bradley Agency, BYU’s student-run PR firm, recruits national and local clients for the department. Students are all required to spend time in the lab, as a way to get hands-on experience and to build relationships with PR professionals. The Bradley Agency not only manages its own clients, it also recruits clients for the school’s PR courses.
Since the creation of the category, Education Program of the Year, The University of Alabama’s public relations program has been recognized every year by PRWeek. Students who choose public relations as their major are required to take courses in areas that supplement their field. Alongside their core classes, the PR students are required to take extra classes in mass communication, business and design.
“In terms of recruitment, I like to think of it the other way around,” said Department Chair Dr. Joseph Phelps, “We have the people in place… That kind of quality attracts quality.”
Phelps said UA’s faculty emphasizes hands-on experience for its students. Yet, they still have time to be some of “the most highly productive researchers in the academy.”
The university stresses the importance of networking outside the classroom. The students are encouraged to get involved in local, regional and national professional organizations. They are also challenged to have at least two internships before graduating. To help students achieve these goals, the university’s PR department keeps a running database of available internships and job opportunities, which students can access from the department’s website.
Recently, a group of students received national recognition for their anti-binge drinking campaign, LessThanUThink http://lessthanuthink.org/, which was developed and implemented over two semesters of elective coursework.
The school’s program offers a variety of classes with similar expectations, including a class that publishes Platform Magazine. The magazine has been rated by allfacebook.com http://www.allfacebook.com/10-facebook-pages-every-public-relations-professional-should-follow-2010-12 as one of the top 10 PR Facebook pages to follow.
Georgetown students can pursue a Master of Professional Studies or an Advanced Professional Certificate (APC). Students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA in order to graduate.
“Courses emphasize strategic planning to address critical business objectives and the development of hard metrics to measure success,” according the the website’scurriculum page.
All master’s students are required to take an ethics course and “the capstone course,” in which students apply their learnings to an industry-related project. These students also choose eight courses within their desired concentration.
APC students take a total of five courses within their desired concentration to acheive a certificate.
Shared hallmarks of excellence
All of these programs stress the importance of hands-on experience through internships, professional networking and consistent, strategic planning. Such emphases are significant in the PR industry and will benefit the students as they move forward in their careers.
*PRWeek selected Syracuse University as the winner of its PR Education of the Year 2011 award. New York University garnered an Honorable Mention.