Good Feelings Towards Cronkite PR

As we round out the final week of blogging and finish the week of our social media projects, I cannot help but reflect back on what I have learned and evaluate the Cronkite School’s PR program as a whole.

Although I am not graduating this year and do not want to pursue PR, I feel that the Cronkite school has done a pretty good job of trying to give students as much academic knowledge of their field as possible, while also trying to provide students with hands-on experience that will benefit them when they leave the doors of the institution.

Take for example the Twitter/FourSquare project that Dr. Gilpin had her JMC 417 and JMC 310 classes complete. As much as it was a pain to complete this without a Smartphone, I can see the value in learning how to use these tools. As Phillip Young said in his Mediations blogpost “The Future of PR Education,” it is impossible to do PR in this day and age without being online. He equivocated it to trying to do PR without people, and I can’t help but agree with his analogy.

Further looking into the thoughts on PR education, I came across a blog called leverwealth. One of its posts, titled “Colin Farrington bid farewell,” completely bashed the state of PR university programs by saying that…

PR degree courses are a mess. All too many are not much more than a course in spamming ‘press releases’ and having a ‘creative idea’ to fly a barrage balloon over the Houses of Parliament.

I think this couldn’t be farther from the truth when speaking about Cronkite PR classes. I don’t know about you, but I have typed Tweets and posted Retweets way more in the past week than I have written press releases.

Also on the topic of beneficial classroom assignments, I came across a blog called Journalistics by a NYU PR graduate student, Ashleigh Egan. In her post “Higher Education vs. Real-World Experience in PR,” she discusses the benefits of having a job in PR while in school to really grasp how some of the theories and ideas taught can be utilized. I thought she had a point. That is until I read…

Listening to a professor tell you how to interact with the media or compile a strategic communications plan is one thing, but it’s not the same thing as doing it yourself.  One component to my degree, which I think should be included in all public relations programs, is to work with an actual company to develop a strategic communications plan.

My thoughts on this were the following: 1.) Duh! Why wouldn’t all programs have this as a course? 2.) You are a graduate student, and I am doing the same thing you are in one of my undergraduate classes.

I guess what I am trying to get at is I am very proud to be at the Cronkite school. Not only do we receive the traditional background of the field, but the faculty members are also making sure we are learning modern skills by developing them in hands-on environments.

So, what are your thoughts on the PR program? Any suggestions for improvements? Opinions on courses in general or assignments in particular?

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12 Responses to Good Feelings Towards Cronkite PR

  1. dolson says:

    I agree with your praise of our school’s PR program. The campaigns class in particular is as helpful as it is challenging. And I chuckled that we as juniors and seniors are accomplishing the same as a graduate student; if that isn’t a boost of confidence then I don’t know what is.

    Comments on the state of PR aside, the leverwealth blog makes some strong points that PR, and social media especially, is evolving and those who will not retrain or learn new skills will be left behind. The blog ends by mentioning that a professional PR practitioner in the UK should at least have a master’s degree. With standards that high there is hope yet, I think.

  2. dsmith says:

    I also agree with your positive outlook on the Cronkite school PR program. Yesterday I was talking to a friend who is graduating with a communications degree and she said “I wish I had learned anything at all in college and I wish I knew what I wanted to do when I graduate.” I was pretty shocked because I feel the exact opposite. Because of my Cronkite classes and internships I was able to narrow down exactly what type of PR I want to pursue and feel I would be good at. Cronkite classes are not only teaching theories and components of PR, but they are providing us with hands on experience as well. My only complaint would be for the school to make more pr classes since we only take three before graduating.

  3. hmick says:

    I can definitely say that I am proud to say that I attended the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I think the professors here are very knowledgeable and willing to help a student if they need it. I also think it’s great that we are starting to learn the new tools for PR that will make us more marketable when we search for jobs. The only things I would change about the PR program are 1. encouraging the other professors to not talk about PR as the “dark side.” I remember I heard this for the first two years at the Cronkite School and I almost felt ashamed to tell the teachers that I was studying PR in fear of what else they would say about our major. And secondly, I would add a PR class somewhere within the first two years of school. It wasn’t until the fall semester of my Junior year that I took my first PR class and I think that if we were exposed to it earlier it would help us get a richer understanding of what we are going in to and also encourage more people to chose the PR track. Other than that, I am SO proud of all of us that are graduating this semester and I am hopeful that we will all take our amazing education and put it to good use 🙂

  4. tburns says:

    Of course, as many of you have pointed out, while we might think highly of our school, that does not mean it is without flaws. (As Dr. Gilpin reiterates with our drafts, “Nothing is ever perfect and can always be improved.”)

    I, too, agree that there should be more PR classes at the Cronkite school. One I would like to see is a PR ethics class. Although we do have one for journalism, I think the ethics in PR are different and varied enough to create a specific class for PR majors. Furthermore, although it is an elective for a business journalism class, I think a business class to learn financials should be required. We have to represent companies who more often than not want to know how things affect their numbers or who want to send out press releases about their earnings. Knowing how financial statements and filings work would be quite helpful.

    What is crazy is the fact that though there are only 3 PR classes, the program is as strong as it is. (Imagine how strong it would be if more were added.) I know that seniors graduating have all the tools they should to be successful in their careers, and I wish them all the best of luck in starting this new phase of their lives.

  5. kmcnally says:

    I as well, am proud to be graduating from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the country. I feel like i have gotten a great education from this school. the teachers i have had are all very experienced in their field, and very knowledgeable about what they are teaching. Not only are the teachers knowledgeable and experiences, but they are excited about what they do, they are passionate about their jobs, and sometimes, that is hard to find. Because they are so passionate about the subject, it helps us students be more motivated and excited about what we are learning.
    I think that one suggestion i would give is with the business of journalism course, i feel like what we have learned in that class, while beneficial, is something that could be added to another class and taught as a side subject, rather than a whole class.

    Also, i think that a research class would be beneficial like Gilpin was saying. It is hard to be required to do a huge campaign, and provide efficient research, when really we haven’t been taught how to do it.

    But other than those two things, i would say that our program is a very strong program that is going to produce some great PR Professionals. And like i said earlier, i am, and always will be proud to be a Sun Devil from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University. 🙂

  6. clundeberg says:

    I can say with complete honesty that I am thrilled with the PR department. I will say that it took a few semesters to get into the program (and really understand what a PR person does), but the PR writing and PR campaigns classes are so hands-on that it’s hard to leave without a sense of accomplishment and solid foundation to start your career.

    To continue with the discussion of research–I think that students would benefit greatly from a research class. I don’t know how excited students will be to take the course, but research is such a crucial part of the field. Intelligence is a combination of so many aspects, and a knowledge of quality research techniques will only enhance everything we’ve learned.

  7. tburns says:

    I definitely agree that a research class should be required. Not just for the PR majors, but the entire journalism school.

    I’m in an online research methods class right now at the Cronkite school, and I have learned a lot of useful skills that certainly would have been really beneficial to me when I was in the reporting stage of the degree.

    Knowing how to research and how to research well is a vital skill that everyone should have. Not can can you yourself create projects that are well-supported, but you can recognize what is and what is not well-supported developments by others.

  8. aguido says:

    Reading this post, I must say I am grateful to have gone through this program, although this is not what I want to do in my career future. I am very thankful for the PR internship that I landed in, because it let me discover my love for web development. That is in no way the program’s fault, just personal preference. Cronkite’s program has been VERY effective in introducing me to the PR world and I think the best part about it is that they make you get an internship to experience it in the real world before graduating. Most people don’t have that advantage and many come out of college with no idea what to do in a real PR position. We now have essential items to add to our resumes, because I am finding out more and more that what employers really want to see is experience, not just a college degree.

    I do agree that a major flaw is that there aren’t enough required PR specific classes and that a research class should most certainly be a part of the curriculum. Until 415/417, I didn’t quite know what PR is about, and I don’t think that should be the case so late into the game.

    While I hated 301 with every fiber of my being, I am thankful that it showed me the media side of things. As PR practitioners, we would be trying to appeal to journalists so having that inside knowledge is great. Also, having that inside knowledge pushed me from print to PR since I realized I wasn’t such a huge fan of reporting.

    Well, for all the comments I had, I overall think it is a great program that immerses you into the PR field. While I find it a bit unfortunate that that hands on experience didn’t really come until my last semester, I am very thankful that I went through it to see what it is really all about.

  9. hhoma says:

    How about a class purely dedicated to the changing world of social media? Since this is the direction we’re heading in, it would make sense to devote an entire class to staying on top of it all, rather than just talking about it for a week in 417 or in online media.

    I think some of the other suggestions are good ones too, like a research class and a PR ethics class. It would also be nice to have specific classes for in-house PR, agency work and nonprofit work, where students could really learn the ins and outs (especially if they aren’t able to get internships with all 3).

  10. cwilusz says:

    I think this is a great post. i think my overall experience with the Cronkite PR program has been a great one. My only critique is JMC 310. I thought this class was useless. It could have been my professor but I did not take much away from it and it did not help me at all with my classes to follow.

    I think JMC 417 is the best class that this school offers. Yes, we all want to cry at the work load sometimes and can find this class frustrating. But, we are gaining so much knowledge and our truly learning the ins and outs of this field and the stressfulness that comes with it.

  11. tburns says:

    I think hhoma’s idea of a class geared towards teaching students about specific PR fields would be a great class. Areas like politics, non-profit, entertainment, etc. are in different in their own ways and it would be nice to get introduced to all of them to get an idea of what you like most.

    As well, following new trends, while it might be beneficial now, I don’t know how long it could last. Sure, right now things are changing but that is because the Internet is introducing us to so many new types of media. I wonder how long things will continue to evolve at such a rapid pace or will things become “tradition” or usual ways of PR. Or do you think the field of technology is so tied in with our lives that things will always continue to change and nothing will ever be concrete?

    I, too, think that being required to learn how to report and have an internship is a great course expectation set in the program. (Although, I have to say, the whole paid versus unpaid thing is quite annoying. But that is a different conversation for a different time.)

  12. Dawn Gilpin says:

    “I think hhoma’s idea of a class geared towards teaching students about specific PR fields would be a great class. Areas like politics, non-profit, entertainment, etc. are in different in their own ways and it would be nice to get introduced to all of them to get an idea of what you like most.”

    Isn’t that essentially what 310 used to be? We spent a little time on these topics this semester, but I don’t think that there is enough material to make for a rigorous, semester-long course–especially when there is no room in the curriculum for expansion.

    I am so thrilled that we’ve finally managed to institute a research requirement, which at least brings us up to par with the minimum recommended PRSA curriculum. However, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to expand the course offerings further, beyond perhaps an occasional elective in the more distant future. Fortunately or unfortunately, Cronkite already demands a lot from its majors (as you may have noticed…), which means there’s very little wiggle room in terms of course schedules: the only way to add a full complement of public relations courses would be to make the program a five-year degree. Which would not be a popular move, to say the least.

    Eliminating internal tracks does make it easier for students of all concentrations to take PR classes, which I think is a definite bonus, and I hope to see more enrollment from students who see themselves as primarily wanting to focus on, say, broadcast or online media. Right now we’re concentrating on beefing up the courses we already have: students in 310 now learn the basics of strategy and have to analyze a case study (and I’d like practice on case studies to continue in 415). Once the research requirement is solidly in place, this means that students coming into the class will already be familiar with ROPE (and be able to tackle more advanced approaches to strategic planning), already have experience analyzing case studies, and already have spent a semester learning how to do primary and secondary research. You can imagine what a difference this will make in 417.

    Still, I’m really proud of what you are all capable of accomplishing even in such a pared-down PR curriculum. We require a lot of you, and you deliver.

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