Public relations master’s track will start next semester

Ben Breier

Kent State public relations students will have the option to earn a master’s degree in the field starting next semester.

James Gaudino, dean of the College of Communication and Information, said the master’s program in public relations is an emphasis within the already available journalism and mass communication master’s degree.

Associate professor William Sledzik said there was a high demand for a master’s program in public relations due to the positive reputation the undergraduate program already has.

Sledzik said 92.5 percent of public relations students who graduated with a degree in public relations from 2000 to 2005 were hired into a public relations job within a year after graduation.

The program gives undergraduates the option of taking graduate level classes, typically during their senior year.

He said undergraduates in the program will be one-third of the way toward their master’s degree by the time they obtain their bachelor’s degree.

Sledzik said there will be two paths in the sequence – one branch is for people looking to re-energize their careers in public relations, while the other focuses on teaching public relations at the college level, with a strong focus on research and theory.

Assistant professor Michele Ewing is working on developing a course in online public relations tactics for the new program.

“It (the class) is about how public relations professionals use Web-based tools such as blogging and Podcasting, and how the tools are used to develop relationships to communicate with a company’s target audience,” Ewing said.

She also plans to give her students an opportunity to use the tools in her class. Ewing said part of her lecture would be delivered via Podcast.

Ewing intends to make her course a “blended class” – a course that features traditional in-class learning in conjunction with online elements.

Jeff Fruit, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, also hopes to use distance learning to incorporate the needs of non-traditional students.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of students whose needs we aren’t meeting right now,” he said.

Even though there are other schools that feature master’s programs in public relations, Fruit hopes that heavy use of online components will put Kent State’s program above the competition.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Ben Breier at [email protected]