One of the truly rewarding things about my current life as a PR professor has been introducing young men and women to the profession that has been mine for more than a quarter-century and seeing that mental “light” go on in a student’s eyes when he or she figures out the next step post-college.
In the 10-plus years that I’ve headed the Public Relations Concentration at Curry College, I’ve “occasionally” been “accused” of being a smidge too intense in my championing of public relations as the field in which to spend one’s productive years. To which I (mentally) respond, “You ain’t seen nuttin’ yet!”
To be totally blunt, I don’t want any- and everyone flooding into the profession. Why? Because it’s just that…a profession, not an “oh well, couldn’t get a job anywhere else, so why not?”
In my absolutely biased opinion, public relations is, to borrow from Edward L. Bernays and countless other beacons in the PR world, both an art and a science.
The art part comes from the ability to craft messaging that resonates with target audiences and motivates them to do (or not do) something.
The science part lies in the ability to understand how and why that messaging works its magic.
And this is the beauty of teaching public relations in a liberal arts college. My students are required to take courses in philosophy and/or psychology as well as literature, history, and all the other trappings of what comprises a college education.
In the process, they are exposed to the way human beings think and the reasons for their actions…the science part.
As much as I would love for every single one of the hapless souls who wander through my classes either voluntarily or under pressure to “drink the Kool-Aid” and swear allegiance to public relations, I know it’s not going to happen…but I see part of my mission as helping them figure out what they are interested in and would like to spend the rest of their lives doing.
College is an opportunity to explore…to “test drive” (as I like to term it) different things. Internships (required for my PR Concentration troops; encouraged for others) help fine-tune interests and, with any luck, get a start on a career.
It’s a process…
- Identifying interests
- Developing skills
- Matching interests and skills
- Pursuing job opportunities.
My job is very much like that of a gardener. I provide an educational “bed” into which the “seeds” of knowledge are planted and nurtured. With the proper amount of care (academic advising) and fertilizing (internships), the seeds that have been planted begin to sprout.
Success, for me, is measured in terms of the number of seeds that actually develop. I’m “watching flowers grow.”