Kent State’s Online PR Graduates Highlight Academic Success, Convenience and Diversity
For some students graduating from Kent State University on Saturday, Dec. 15, their walk across the stage at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center will be their first time actually stepping foot on campus. On that day, 16 students from around the country graduate from Kent State’s online master’s degree concentration in public relations. Many of them are traveling to Kent to celebrate their achievement as inaugural graduates of the two-year, completely online degree program.
Rick Batyko, vice president of marketing for the Greater Cleveland Partnership, realized early the potential of the online program, explaining, “Kent State has such a fine tradition in public relations, and I felt that the online program would be just as strong.”
Batyko highlights convenience and diversity within the online classroom as the program’s primary advantages. “The program is convenient because you can access when your schedule permits,” Batyko said. “It also provides us with a classroom that stretches around the world. The perspective you get from such diversity is very helpful in a profession that’s increasingly global.”
The Kent State online master’s program concentration in public relations mixes real-world skills with the kind of academically rigorous focus students demand in preparing for today’s communications challenges. The first class of students included senior PR and marketing professionals, as well as journalists and others from other areas of mass communications, such as broadcasting, mixed with students who want to change careers. The advanced curriculum includes courses in social media tools and strategy, crisis communications, branding, internal communications and strategic campaign management.
Bob Batchelor, Kent State assistant professor and the program’s academic director, knows how beneficial the program is for enrolled students. “From the earliest stages, we knew there were many communications professionals who wanted an advanced degree but were unable to attend a traditional program based on their work commitments,” Batchelor said. “Therefore, if we committed the expertise of our world-class public relations faculty with progressive online course delivery, we knew we would have a winner.”
Most of the students valued the convenience and diversity that the online program allows.
“This online PR program was perfect for me because, as a working journalist, I wouldn’t have had time to attend classes,” said Eric Mansfield, graduating Kent State student and executive director of media relations at Kent State. Mansfield started this program while an anchor and reporter at Cleveland’s WKYC-TV3. “This is an extremely challenging program,” he said. “I was blown away by the complexity of some of these courses. I’m already using skills I learned in the program in my first PR job.”
Batyko adds the culture is positive and helpful even though students aren’t physically on campus. “It has been very rewarding to be a part of it all,” he explained. “I can’t say enough good things about it.”
Ryan Lilyengren, senior supervisor in Portland, Ore., at Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm, also notes the program is convenient for personal schedules but requires motivation. “You can do the work when you have time, but this sort of environment requires that you muster your own motivation,” Lilyengren said. “You must be dedicated week in and week out for two years.”
Lilyengren praises how the program designed.
“The program starts by building a strong structure of theory and management, and then adds many practical and specialized courses in areas like social media and analytics – pieces any competent communicator would need to know.”
Maripat Blankenheim, director of external communication at Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee, also noted the convenience. “You can be on the road, do your work and be in school,” she said. “The instructors were extremely understanding of the fact we have real lives.”
Eugene Sasso, program coordinator and lecturer at Kent State, said the student diversity within the online classes creates an incredible dynamic. “In a virtual classroom with people such as a broadcaster in Puerto Rico or a director in a company like Harley-Davidson, this program allows for student interaction with a group of people who are remarkably diverse,” Sasso said.
“Our first graduating class is incredibly important to us,” Batchelor said. “These students took a chance on a new program and then proceeded to work incredibly hard for two years. They met every challenge we threw at them and universally gave more than we ever expected. Now that their courses have wrapped up, we see their work in total and are amazed at what they produced.”
To learn more about the program, visit http://publicrelations.kent.edu/ma.
The Kent State School of Journalism and Mass Communication, nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, provides professional programs to prepare students for careers in journalism, advertising, public relations, marketing communication, media production and media management.
For more information about Kent State’s School of Journalism and Communication, visit http://jmc.kent.edu.
Stephanie Smith, ssmit149 [at] kent.edu, 703-343-3159
Emily Vincent, evincen2 [at] kent.edu, 330-672-8595