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And the Award Goes to …

Posted At: May 11, 2009 8:21 AM
by Dianna Duffy

On March 5, 2009, PRWeek announced the winners of the annual PRWeek Awards.PRWeek Awards are given in a variety of categories, ranging from Technique Awards to General Consumer Awards. Recipients of these awards exhibit excellence in their public relations endeavors.

Editor-in-Chief of PRWeek Keith O’Brien said all finalists were able to address current PR opportunities in a way that advances the industry. “The winning campaigns wisely deployed strategies that both played off timely elements in the economy and culture, as well as those that best utilized the available technologies driving media and information consumption today,” O’Brien said.

Three schools were recognized this year for their outstanding achievement in public relations education. The PR Education Program of the Year winner was New York University’s graduate program. They offer a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communication. Two undergraduate programs, James Madison University and  The University of Alabama, received Honorable Mention. The public relations program at each of these schools has managed to stand out above the rest.

NYU Master’s Degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications Program (NYU SCPS PRCC) has many opportunities to offer its students since it is in the heart of the Big Apple. Robert F. Noltenmeier, clinical assistant professor at NYU, said, “NYU SCPS PRCC takes full advantage of New York City’s resources as the world’s media capital.” The men and women leading the program come from very experienced backgrounds. “Faculty members are or have been successful public relations practitioners at the world’s leading agencies and corporations that are headquartered in New York, such as Edelman, Ketchum, Publicis Group, Johnson & Johnson and many others,” Noltenmeier said. The fact that New York is a global destination attracts international faculty, practitioners and students. Noltenmeier said students come from “China, Taiwan, Switzerland, Venezuela, Japan, India, Israel, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Canada, Great Britian and some are even from New Jersey.”

Noltenmeier said the New York City communication environment gives students a truly global sense of public relations. “Each semester the program’s Practicum class completes a global public relations project for the United Nations, which is just down 42nd Street from the NYU Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan,” he said. “Students interested in a global public relations career can’t ask for anything more than that.”

James Madison University focuses on real-world experience in public relations. Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Corey A. Hickerson said students grow through service learning, working with real-life clients. “We strongly encourage our students to enroll in internships,” he said. Past students have completed their internships at companies such as Burson-Marsteller, NFL Films and J. Walter Thompson.

Students at James Madison University have several outlets that allow them to work with international public relations practitioners. They have the opportunity to enroll in International Seminar, a class in which students work with international students on clients with international business. There is also a study abroad program for students. “This Sunday, some of our students will leave for our study abroad program, which takes place in Europe and the Middle East,” Hickerson said. Students will travel to places such as Istanbul, Paris and London. “The goal of this program is for our students to see international public relations professionals’ best practices,” Hickerson said.

The University of Alabama currently has nearly 1,100 students enrolled in its APRdepartment: 650 public relations majors and 430 advertising majors. Dr. Bruce Berger, professor and chairman of the UA Department of Advertising and Public Relations, believes at least four things make the PR program stand out: “an excellent and enthusiastic team of teachers, a strong and steadily evolving curriculum, a highly supportive and engaged alumni regionally and nationally, and the culture of the department and college.” “This culture is very collegial, supportive and student focused,” Berger said.

Receiving the PRWeek recognition is much more than just an award for these programs. Hickerson said receiving this award has shown James Madison University that it is heading in the right direction. “It is also nice to be recognized by your peers,” he said. NYU’s Noltenmeier said the PRWeek award “validates the NYU Master’s Degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program’s credibility and affirms its education strategy: to provide students with a practitioner-oriented curriculum that emphasizes social science and ethical professional behavior in a global public relations context.” Berger said this award “validates the quality” of the program at The University of Alabama. Each of these universities believes that this award is just a hint of the great things that are in store for the future of the programs.

“It means a lot for our future,” Berger said. “This award may help us increase the enrollment of outstanding students from across the country.” It may also help The University of Alabama “attract excellent faculty, guest speakers and challenging campaign projects for students.” Noltenmeier believes this award is a driving force for NYU. “The award re-energizes NYU and the faculty to achieve even more in the future and to prepare our students even better for successful careers in the global public relations and corporate communications environment,” he said. Hickerson said James Madison University is also energized by this recognition. “It brings a sense of pride and energy to the program,” he said. “It is good for the students to see how exceptional our program is so that they look forward to the future.”

These public relations education programs are without a doubt setting an incredible example for all programs across the country. The faculty members at New York University, James Madison University and The University of Alabama have devoted much of their time and energy to ensure that their programs flourish. The students and faculty at these programs are working toward a bright future for strong, ethical leadership in the public relations field.

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