The more I post here, the more I find myself drawn to this opening phrase: I really shouldn’t admit this, but… Blogging teases you into revealing yourself in the same way you might when having a drink (or several) with close friends. That’s probably why so many folks get in trouble doing it, huh? But that’s a story for another post.
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but until about a year ago, I didn’t believe a master’s degree in public relations was all that useful. I was especially convinced that grads of an exceptional professional program like ours at Kent State (shameless plug) didn’t need to prolong their schooling. “Git out there and do it,” I’d tell them. And our 92.5% job placement rate (2000-2005) reinforced my cocksure attitude (as if I needed reinforcement).
Even after researching and writing the proposal to establish a public relations master’s here, I remained lukewarm on its value. Oh, it’s great for students whose undergrad degrees came from the traditional liberal arts disciplines, but what more could we offer undergrad PR majors or working professionals?
As my proposal began its journey through the labyrinth of academic approvals, I told the dean and the director that my heart and my efforts would remain with the undergraduates. If our master’s program was going to succeed, we’d need a legitimate practitioner-scholar (senior-level experience plus PhD), not a practitioner-teacher (senior-level experience plus MA). I’m the latter.
Do you know how hard it is to find a senior PR pro with a doctorate? Just ask Kirk Hallahan at Colorado State, or at least read his study on the PR faculty shortage. These folks are rarer than an ivory billed woodpecker.
But guess what happened? We found just that person, and she joined us this fall. Jeanette Drake has 15 years in the biz, 7 more in the classroom and the magic PhD that lets her play both the academic and professional courses. And guess what else? It took her just five weeks to convince me that a master’s degree in PR is a great idea for anyone who wants to evolve in this business. And that includes the students studying PR in a professional undergrad program.
I won’t try to lay out Jeanette’s rationale here, since she makes her case for the entire nation in the October issue of Public Relations Tactics. That article also gives you a sneak preview of the soon-to-be-published report from the PRSA Commission on Public Relations Education.
When I named this blog, I was thinking of the challenges that face the PR profession and those of us who toil in it. With a master’s degree, maybe the “sledding” will be a bit smoother for some of you. Jeanette thinks so, and she sure convinced me.