PR Education: Ivied Walls Meet Asphalt Reality

Publication1I’ve been doing some reflecting recently. No, not out by the swimming pool, although that does sound tempting! Inside my own dusty little head.

Several meetings with several former students from both Curry College and Regis College got me thinking…seriously…about whether or not I’m making a difference now that I’m a teacher on both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

In addition, we were talking this past week in my Conflict Management class at Regis about expectations…me, the teacher, of the students…and, vice versa, the students of me.

On my side of the fence, I expect them to be motivated, prepared, and inquisitive. This is a graduate course, so the stakes are a bit higher.

On their side, I am expected to provide information and insights that will enable them to get a firmer grasp on their professional development…to gain knowledge that will help them better grapple with the challenges of the workplace.

My quandary is that I’m not convinced I’m doing as good a job as my inner self says I should.

Granted the troops are going out with their degrees, undergrad or grad, and are moving onward and upward.

My nagging question to myself, though, is “what impact did I have on their progress?”

Maybe this angst is just in my head. After all, I’m just a public relations professional who, by a wonderful stroke of good fortune, wound up in the classroom teaching the next generation(s) of PR pros (and others). But it’s also a sobering reality check for anyone charged with educating up-and-coming future professionals.

Edward L. Bernays, who I consider to be the “Father of Public Relations” and who I had the honor to know during his later years here in Boston, had this to say in his 1961 book, “Your Future in Public Relations,” about education and the public relations profession: “If an individual is to give advice to others, he should have knowledge and understanding. A liberal-arts education or its equivalent is a necessity.”

Both Curry and Regis are small liberal arts colleges focused on providing their students with a well-rounded education that exposes them to the arts and the sciences. That was my education, and the things I learned…in all my courses…even the pre-engineering courses which were not among my more shining moments…played a huge role in getting me where I am today.

Eddie also went on to say, “Properly speaking, for the public relations man, as for every other person whose life is more than unthinking routine, the processes of education should never cease.” Hence advanced degrees and professional development courses.

He also recognized the value of real-life, hands-on experience and was an early proponent of internships: “…it clearly would be advantageous to have…a system of internship.” And that is where I hope I am making a difference…by urging and helping students to get internships, to get their first jobs, and to chart their course for the future.

I expose my students to as much of the reality of the PR profession as I possibly can in the classroom, presenting the theory, the history, the tactics, and the techniques. Then I push them (gently) out of their ivy-walled nest to meet the asphalt of reality.

So far, it seems like it’s working. But I’ll always wonder…

“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” – Henry James, “The Middle Years” [1893]


About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 20 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in careers, Communication, Curry College, Graduate Communication, internships, liberal arts education, public relations, Regis College, Undergraduate Communication and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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