Monday, July 17, 2006

Teaching multicultural PR

Just finished reading Donnalyn Pompper's 2005 article on "Multiculturalism in the Public Relations Curriculum," for which she held focus groups with African-American women to find out what they thought about how multiculturalism is taught in PR classes.

"Topic guide probes regarding classroom attention to multicultural diversity met spontaneous laughter in each of the four cities, indicating that virtually no respondents had public relations classes that covered multicultural diversity in any way," she reported.

A list of a number of some suggestions the women made to improve teaching of diversity:

1. Hire more full-time faculty of color
2. Reach out to high-school students
3. Workshops or training sessions for faculty
4. Field trips to minority-owned agencies and guest lectures
5. Use multicultural cases and clients in class
6. Revise textbooks to include pictures/case studies involving ethnic groups
7. Teach business negotiation skills and interpersonal persuasion strategies for dealing with office politics
8. Ask PRSA and NBPRS to provide internships and mentoring

I think we're doing pretty well at UGA-- we maintain a list of multicultural project assignments, guest speakers, graduate student and faculty research, and campaigns clients that belies Pompper's conclusion-- but undoubtedly we can do more.

Item #1 is of particular concern. Of our 9 full-time PR faculty, only one is classified as a minority. Last year, when I chaired our search committee to find a new assistant professor, I made sure that we made a special effort to recruit minority candidates, right down to writing personal letters and contacting advisors to identify candidates, yet in the end there were very few qualified minority applicants. Obviously as a field we need to do a better job of recruiting minority graduate students to earn Ph.D.s and get out there and teach.

In the meantime, I really latched onto one thing Pompper's focus group members mentioned: the importance to several participants of African-American adjunct instructors. I intend to find out if we can tap into this market as a way of bringing diversity to our department.

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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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