Northern's public relations program is nearing the end of its first semester in the College of Business. It moved from the Communication and Media Studies Department as part of a larger Academic Affairs restructuring process. The two faculty members directly impacted agree that it is rare for PR to fall under the College of Business organizational umbrella at universities, yet it is a natural fit with closely connected programs such as marketing.
“Outside of the university, in the career world, public relations, marketing and management are very integrated,” said professor Jes Thompson. “It only makes sense that we would be cross-training our students to prepare them for these careers. This move will certainly set our students apart. Aside from the label on their degree, they'll have better knowledge of business practices and be ready to enter a variety of career fields, whether corporate or nonprofit. All industries are looking for innovative, communication-savvy students with good business acumen.”
“Chief communication officers should be partnering with CEOs to improve strategy and execution of PR and communication activities,” said professor Tom Isaacson . “The relationship between the two professionals should be the closest one in a corporation. We have a chance to be incredibly progressive with our public relations major by embedding it in the College of Business. The move will better allow us to serve our students and to prepare them for their future careers. The potential exists for collaborations with Marketing and Management and we'll strive to find courses that will strengthen our students' business background.”
The PR website describes NMU's program as “a professional program designed to meet, and in some cases surpass, the Public Relations Society of America's (PRSA) Guidelines for Undergraduate Education. It teaches the kind of research, writing, planning and budgeting skills that students need to succeed in the job market and allows them to employ these skills on behalf of a variety of clients.”
There is also an active NMU chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which gives students additional opportunities for community service and learning. Several members attended October's PRSSA International Conference in San Diego. They attended presentations, learned about career opportunities in the field and networked with professionals attending the PRSA conference.
The shift of PR to the College of Business won't impact the academic pathway for current students.