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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Public Relations and Advertising degree is offered

by Wayne Boykin II

Under the collaboration of three departments, Columbia College has created a new public relations and advertising degree. Though this degree is offered through the business department, the humanities and art departments had a hand in designing the new program.

Dr. Kenneth Middleton, chair of the business department said, “It’s very much a joint degree. Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean for academic affairs, said, “Unlike a lot of our degrees, it is an interdisciplinary degree because it also draws from arts and communication.”

Middleton attributes success to this degree because all three departments went into it with the idea of the student in mind and not protecting the departments’ turf. Protecting turf is common in bigger schools, where the business school and the communication or journalism school might fight collaboration in a joint public relations and advertising degree.

Several questions arose during the planning meetings with the three departments. The questions were: Should this degree be two separate degrees? Is the business department the right place for a degree like this? Is a degree needed at this campus?

When deciding if the college should split the degree, Smith said, “At a big college, yes.” However, with limited faculty, Smith said, “You do what you can.” With this idea in mind, the group came to the conclusion of joining these two fields in one degree.

Degrees in public relations and advertising traditionally have been offered through the journalism or communication departments at colleges and universities, but the college will offer the degree through the business department. Angie Kinworthy, business professor, said “While writing and communication skills are vital to effective public relation activities, the trend has shown that the job [public relations] has become more and more functions of top management, working directly with top CEO’s and managers.” This indicates that the field of public relations and advertising is becoming more business oriented.

However, Dr. Amy Darnell, professor of speech communication believes communication is a huge part of the public relations and advertising field. Darnell said public relations and advertising asks, “How do we communicate to large amounts of people about a product or company?”

Is a public relations and advertising degree needed at Columbia College? Middleton said that this program will meet a real need and that students have expressed interest in having a degree in these fields. Kinworthy said, “Public relations has become very important in the management of a corporation.” She also stated that public relations is found in many companies. Whether it is a large stock market corporation or a small “mom and pop” business, all have to do some kind of public relations and advertising, meaning that majority of people working have public relations and advertising around them.

Middleton said the degree will soon be offered to the Evening and Nationwide campuses. The only item the department still is working on is finding an alternative for the required internship. When they find an acceptable substitute, the degree will be ready to offer in the adult higher education programs.

Photo: Angie Kinworthy teaches her Public Relations class. Photo by Wayne Boykin II.

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