In a comment to my previous post about 2008, Michael Clendenin sums up what we PR Types can do in 2009 — change things.
My friend Michael’s points, as usual, are wise and timely. In my current role as educator of future communication/PR/IMC professionals, I must make changes to my courses in order to help prepare students for the harsh realities of the job market. By all accounts for the foreseeable future, that job market is going to be an unwelcoming place.
Accordingly, I have been thinking about Michael’s suggestion. What must I change to reflect current market conditions and make my courses more valuable to students?
The time is right to consider this question. I have been preparing syllabi for my four spring semester classes. Three of the classes are on subjects I teach every semester — public relations writing (one section) and strategic communication planning and management (two sections). Also for this spring, I will be developing and teaching a new course in our Communication Leadership Master’s program, “The Practice of Public Relations and Organizational Communication.”
My professional experience includes training in continuous quality improvement, so I strive to improve my courses all along. I will be changing some things for spring semester, mainly, elevating the criteria for success. This is no time to tolerate student’s underachievement. Their prospective employers are going to be highly selective and terribly unforgiving about underachievement on the job. Only the best and the brightest have a chance at getting and keeping employment in today’s job market.
And it all begins here as an undergrad. Tough love? You bet. I won’t be helping anyone if I let them coast to an easy grade. If I give away good grades, then the students will graduate and the marketplace will kick them in the teeth. They’ll blame me.
That leads me to a question: I wonder if other Mass Communication/Public Relations departments are growing as rapidly as Towson’s? More and more undergrads want to major in Mass Comm/PR. My colleagues and I suspect that far too many of these individuals view the major as an easy one. If that is true, then it was mostly our fault.
But that was then, and this is now. We are steadily upgrading the qualifications for acceptance to the major. Among the steps we are taking is adding screening courses that require analytical thinking and the highest quality writing ability to pass. No passing grade, no acceptance to the major.
We restructured “principles” class coursework along with all lower level classes to be much more difficult. We raised the GPA requirement for acceptance to the major. But is it enough? We still get a boat load of folks who want to major in PR and be wedding planners.
There are PR programs worthy of emulation. My friend and excellent blogger/professor Bill Sledzik at Kent State University outlined his program in a hard-hitting post titled, “Let’s raise the bar for PR education, and let’s raise it really, really, really, really, really, really high.” I think what Bill wrote is priceless and should be read by everyone teaching PR.
The year 2009 is shaping up to be a tough one for us all. You know the saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Poll after poll shows that the American people hate the government bailouts because we Americans seek to reward achievement, not subsidize failure.
In preparing students for communication/PR/IMC careers, we can do no less than that.