Posted At: April 12, 2007
by Miranda Yow
Dr. Michael Palenchar and Dr. Lynne Sallot prefer not to teach solely by the book. In fact, these public relations professors are using real-world experience as a major teaching component in their classrooms—and they are following a national trend in PR education.
Twenty years ago, PR educators, like most, used textbooks as their main teaching components. Today, textbooks in PR classes have taken a back seat. Dr. Michael Palenchar, assistant professor in public relations at the University of Tennessee, agrees. “I typically do not use textbooks when I teach; however, I use a myriad of materials based on real situations that are current in PR.” Palenchar calls this method “teaching in real time.” For this practice to be effective, he says he must be flexible with his teaching schedule. “My syllabi are usually open-ended so I can incorporate what is going on in PR today,” says Palenchar.
Dr. Lynne Sallot, associate professor in public relations at the University of Georgia, believes that service-learning is learning by doing. She incorporates this idea of service-learning into all of her classes by having her students work with real-life organizations on real-life problems. In Sallot’s PR campaigns course, her students are given a client within the university for which they will develop and implement a campaign. This fall, the chosen UGA entity was the Office of Energy Services. The class created a student initiative for energy conservation called UGA Unplugged. During the class, they developed a logo, visual identity and a Web site for the initiative.
This semester’s PR campaigns class has continued working with UGA Unplugged. They have created effective and creative ways to market their client. For example, they consistently hold energy conservation events such as light bulb exchanges, which provide opportunities for students and faculty members to trade their incandescent light bulbs for more energy-efficient compact florescent light bulbs.
“My classes have done an amazing job with this project,” says Sallot. “Service-learning provides students with an opportunity to obtain significant experience within the field while they are in school.”
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