The Department of Communication Studies at Eastern Illinois University is launching a new Public Relations new major starting in the fall of 2016. Information about the new major can be found here: https://www.eiu.edu/commstudies/PublicRelations.php.
Conversations over the new major began in the spring of 2012 because of duplicate PR programs in both journalism and communication studies. The new PR major adopts a student-centered approach based on the national recommendations and considerations of the Commission on Public Relations Education, which includes members from professional organizations, public relations businesses, and leading public relations scholars. Once the proposal was agreed upon in principal by journalism and communication studies, the approval process moved quite swiftly through the university curriculum committees, the board of trustees, and ultimately the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
There will be high demand for the major in the coming years. Public relations is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that job opportunities as Public Relations Specialists will grow by 12% between 2012-2022. In addition, the Department of Labor indicates there will be significant growth of Public Relations Managers (13%), Event Planners (33%), Promotions Managers (12%), and Market Research Analysts (32%) during the same time period. In 2015 U.S. News and World Report ranked Public Relations Specialist as 75th on its Best Jobs list, ranked it as the Best Creative Job, and boasted about its 0.2% unemployment rate.
The new major focuses on teaching students about important trends contemporary public relations. The curriculum is designed to provide a foundational experience in public relations through a balance of theory and practice. It provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the profession and offers significant practical experiences that challenge and engage students in the practice of the profession. The course content focuses heavily on the strategic management of communication and building/maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between organizations/individuals and their stakeholders. For example, the new Public Relations Research, Evaluation, and Measurement course will help students understand the role of data in public relations today, how to collect it, and then what to do with it.
According to the PR faculty member Dr. Matt Gill, “Even though media has changed over the last twenty years, good writing is still at the heart of the public relations.” Instead of offering one writing class, the major offers a new course titled Advanced Public Relations Writing. The new curriculum gives us the flexibility to teach advanced public relations writing techniques and provides space to focus more coursework on writing in specific contexts, such as social media or web content. Students also receive the added benefit of more time to improve and practice their writing.
Other exciting new courses include Public Relations Campaigns, which allows students to put together different aspects of public relations and experience what it is like to create and execute a coherent and cohesive campaign. The major also offers a capstone special topics course for students to explore topic areas and emerging issues in the field with considerably more depth than can be covered in other content courses.
In the fall the Communication Studies department will take control over The Agency, an on-campus, student run public relations firm that had been in the journalism department. Combined with EIU’s PRSSA chapter, The Agency will provide public relations majors another outlet for professional growth and practical experience.
Submitted by Dr. Molly Niesen