Public relations graduate program is now available

Kristen Russo

Graduate students interested in promoting company image or managing corporate crisis situations now have another degree option in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

This semester, the school is offering a public relations master’s program for the first time since 1988.

“The timing for launching this program is great. PR is really hot right now,” said Jeanette Drake, associate professor of public relations.

“Twenty years ago, the profession didn’t have the wide-spread importance that it has today.”

Drake, who came to Kent State from The University of Findlay to launch the program, said it focuses a lot on online tactics and cutting-edge curriculum.

The program’s 36 credit hours includes a three-credit-hour master’s project. Drake said students can choose from a master’s professional project, where they will take on a public relations campaign; a master’s apprenticeship, where they will work for an organization under a mentor; or a master’s thesis.

The core coursework includes classes in theory, management, research, advertising and public relations law as well as skills courses. Skills courses include media relations and online tactics.

Laura Andrews, a second-year graduate student who recently switched her focus to public relations, is taking the online tactics class this semester. She said the class teaches students how to implement online tools, such as blogs, in public relations.

“It’s kind of tough because it’s a new class. We’re all kind of learning as we go,” Andrews said. “But it’s kind of cool to shape the class with the professor – be the guinea pigs for it.”

Students also have room to put together their own packages of courses, Drake said. Because PR is so broad, there are many different specializations people could have.

William Sledzik, public relations sequence coordinator, said the professional nature and online elements of the program benefit the students.

“We’re looking ahead,” said Sledzik, who is also an associate professor. “We’re participating in these online social networks that are creating a whole new world out there.”

The program met its first-year enrollment goal of 12 students. Sledzik said there is an even distribution of students who have come directly from an undergraduate program and those with years of professional experience.

Sledzik and Drake said this sequence builds on an undergraduate program that has a 92-percent placement rate and that all professors in the sequence have professional experience. They both said no other school in the area offers a program like this.

Andrews said she likes the program but wants to see more night and online courses offered so students who work in the mornings can have other options.

Drake said a goal for the sequence is to gradually bring more core courses online.

“We’re not limited by the walls of the classroom anymore,” she said.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Kristen Russo at [email protected].