Thursday, April 27, 2006

Somebody cares!

Fixing PR Undergrad Programs

Was surprised and pleased to see Todd Defren's comments on the undergraduate curriculum, and I join Richard Bailey in his mild discomfort with the discussion.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm concerned about the issue; but the feedback I've gotten through comments on the blog and through e-mail has been pretty one-sided: Teach Web 2.0.

Our graduates all say Teach Basic Business. To that Todd adds Teach Professional Etiquette.

Then all the nonprofit folks ask why they don't know how to write grants. And the education PR people wonder why they don't know more about development. And the corporate people think they should know more about advertising and marketing. And on and on and on. And let's not forget that although we are a professional program, we're also part of a university, so they have to learn more than just skills.

What I've come to realize, just in time since our first curriculum meeting is tomorrow, is that what our program needs is more flexibility. Students can't possible learn all of the things everyone wants them to learn and still graduate with the required number of hours of classes in mass comm balanced with the required number in general liberal arts education in four years (in fact, an increasing number of them already don't graduate in four years without adding all of these extra classes).

I'm going to suggest that we consider more 1-hour classes on special topics (up for a 5-week blogging class, Kaye Trammell?), which will allow students to choose from a menu of short courses and tailor a program to their own interests.

The drawback to faculty is that you'd have to teach the same class three times over in a semester, which could get a little repetitive. On the plus side, we'd get to teach more of our own interests, which include fundraising, international PR, history, ethics, political communication, activism, and more.

In order to manage this, however, we'd have to drop one required course as we're already at the maximum number of hours. So it would meaning combining other classes or losing something altogether. We'll find out tomorrow how creative UGA's PR faculty can be.

I am not in complete agreement...while not average, I graduated with a double major BA (Journalism/PR)in 3 years. From what I have experienced, students are more lazy and less driven. Why add extra hours? Revamp the entire blah PR required courses/texts. Use the affiliations to focus on specialty areas for the driven students. Let the students learn prioritizing and responsibilty.
Let me clarify, it's not extra hours, it's cutting back on the "entire blah PR required courses" and instead adding more special topics.

Also, I love the word "revamp"-- that's exactly what I'd like to do. Toss the whole thing out and start with skills and knowledge areas needed, and create all new classes (or some might stay the same), but it's up to the faculty as a whole.
May I recommend asking a subset of likely employers to the discussion about revamping the curriculum?

We care A LOT about getting well-qualified grads, but are too busy to make the time to help make a difference.

But if the hiring principals from agencies, non-profits, corporations, etc. were invited to a 1-time meeting to open-up about their real-world needs and perhaps about what has disappointed them about "last year's crop", and thought it could make a difference, then surely they could make the time and you'd get valuable insights.
Todd, thanks for the suggestion. We do make a big effort to get input from industry people. Aside from student exit interviews and alumni surveys, we also use an advisory board consisting of working professionals who come in twice a year and provide great feedback and suggestions. A couple of our faculty members attend PRSA meetings in Atlanta, and we use that and other informal discussions to inform our teaching and curriculum. Not to mention reading blog posts by you, Richard Edelman, and others in the past few weeks on the subject! It's not so much a case of not knowing what professionals want; it's figuring out how to do it all.
Someone is blogging about your PR manifesto!
Josh Hallett, check it out. He cares.
Lia, I know. I should've put "somebody besides Josh cares!" Actually, I really appreciate his interest and look forward to having him visit UGA next year so I can meet him in person!
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"More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given" --Bertrand Russell

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