Maintaining a university program that truly prepares public relations students for the professional world is like trying to pin down a fast-changing kaleidoscope. The Council of PR Firms promises us that PR is a multifaceted, dynamic industry. The Council is right and it’s our job to produce career-ready graduates.
If public relations education isn’t your thing, you may not recognize the truth of our kaleidoscopic reality. Rest assured that just when we think we have a handle on what our students need to know and be able to do, the composition of the field changes and we have to tweak what we do or how we do it. The context keeps changing but the need to teach vision, strategy, tactics and ROI remains the same. Not only that, but the student landscape is ever changing. Nearly 50 percent of our students come to us as transfers. This means we have only two years to get them PR ready, right along with those who are in the program for 4 years. That is if we are lucky enough to get 4-year students PR-engaged before their junior year. Many believe graduation is so far off that career engagement as a freshman or sophomore is not valuable.
Our need to keep pace with constant change is exhilarating yet daunting. It’s not going away and, let me be quick to add, we don’t want it to. However, as most of you well know, adaptation does not always come quickly to large institutions no matter how badly we want it. I sometimes want the kaleidoscope to be still so we can catch our breath; it’s my job to help us figure out how to keep up.
After more than 20 years in PR education, I find that I’ve spent a good deal of my career trying to figure out best practices for graduate career preparation. Keeping up with changing trends and opportunities for public relations excellence is part of what I love about my job. Figuring out how to make sure our students keep up with them, and finding ways to make those best practices deliverable is the challenge.
I don’t know how we would keep up if we did not invite active interchange with others. And, this is where our supporters outside the walls of education come into play in a big way. Their ability to introduce students to the fast-changing realities of the public relations world and encourage professional vision is priceless. That’s why the UCM PR program is so grateful to groups like Trozzolo Communications Group, Crossroads, Parris Communications, Barkley, the KC Royals, the KC Chiefs, Vocus and many others for helping us out. Agency crawls, training partnerships, corporate contributions, class clients, guest speakers, internship opportunities, student development initiatives, and professional advising and review are integral to our ability to graduate career-ready students.
The outside support directed toward the UCM PR program and its students makes for the best education any institution of higher learning can offer. Students can engage a kaleidoscopic experience through which theory, vision and application come together. It is the foundation of an ever changing, best practices and industry-relevant training ground that truly follows the “Learning To A Greater Degree” UCM mantra.