A ‘One-of-a-Kind’ Public Relations Program
The combination of a strong curriculum, real-world experience and a focus on networking allows Kent State University’s undergraduate public relations students to develop a strong foundation for their future careers.
Kent State's public relations program is housed in the School of Media and Journalism in the College of Communication and Information and has been recognized and is accredited by two professional organizations, certifying that the education at Kent State is relevant, distinctive and taught by experienced professionals who care about their students.
“PR students learn well by doing,” said Michele Ewing, professor of public relations and sequence chair in the School of Media and Journalism. “We lecture, we use a lot of current information as teaching tools but through our classes, we try to get the students to do something with the information. It’s very project oriented because our students learn by doing, not by memorizing.”
Public relations professors strive to keep the curriculum relevant, as noted in a recent re-certification of the program. Students gain hands-on experience in a plethora of public relations courses, such as Public Relations Case Studies, Media Relations and Publicity, Digital Public Relations and Campaigns, the program’s capstone class.
An example would be Professor Stefanie Moore’s Digital Analytics course.
“We are bringing in trends, new technology and equipping students with the skill sets they need to succeed,” Moore said. “The Digital Analytics class is a differentiator. In the class, students learn how to use Excel and how not to be afraid of numbers. It is a nice introduction, and it really forces them to understand how they can measure the success of a digital tactic.”
From a student perspective, the public relations undergraduate program gives students a strategic advantage when searching for job opportunities because of the wide range of learning experiences.
Many public relations students are part of the Public Relations Student Society of America, a pre-professional student version of the Public Relations Society of America that provides opportunities to expand their knowledge through national-level events and conferences.
In 2016, Kent State’s undergraduate public relations program achieved the Education for Public Relations (CEPR) certification, joining an elite group of fewer than five programs from around the world. In November 2023, the program was re-certified, affirming Kent State’s public relations program surpasses national standards. The School of Media and Journalism is also accredited by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication accreditation.
Kent State is the only public relations program in Ohio holding both accreditations.
The Education for Public Relations reviewers commended Kent State’s program on innovative curriculum of both theory and practical application, digital analytics and communication expertise, required internships, a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, a "highly engaged faculty dedicated to coaching and supporting students at all levels" and a robust PRSSA Chapter described as a "force multiplier."
Graduates feel and appreciate the difference this program, these professors and the school makes.
“I truly believe the MDJ professors built a strong curriculum that’s both adaptable and applicable to the real world,” said Brady Warmbein, a 2022 graduate of the public relations program. “From learning the basics of SMART objectives in Principles of PR to understanding a wide variety of analytics and metrics in Digital PR, we gained a prowess that truly sets us apart from other public relations graduates.”
Warmbein is currently a PR/social account executive at Gatesman, an advertising agency based in Pittsburgh and Chicago. He was an active board member of the Kent State chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America and a team member of the Client’s Choice Honors winner during the Spring 2022 Campaigns presentations.
“We pride ourselves in the fact that our students work with clients from the moment they enter the major to the end,” Ewing said. “In the classroom, there are a lot of opportunities to interact with actual clients and work on PR challenges.”
Students in the public relations program are also required to complete an internship. This allows students to use their skills in the real world before graduation.
“Our internship coordinator, Professor Moore, spends time with students and provides guidance on finding an internship,” Ewing said. “She finds out what their interests are, what they need to work on and tries to find an internship that’s going to enhance your skills and advance your marketability for the career path you choose.”
Last October, eight PRSSA Kent members traveled to the PRSA International Conference in Nashville. Attendees had the chance to learn about the public relations industry and network with professionals and peers from across the nation.
“Networking with professionals and peers can lead to connections, and I think that is so important. Public relations is about building relationships, and this allows students to do that,” Moore said.
At the Nashville conference, chapters were recognized and honored for their hard work. PRSSA Kent was awarded the Star Chapter Award for the 12th year in a row. This award encourages student leaders to provide programming and relationship-building opportunities for their chapter and rewards them for achieving these goals.
Former PRSSA Kent President and 2023 PR graduate Kayla Polansky won the National Gold Key Award, PRSSA’s highest individual honor. This award recognizes academic excellence and leadership qualities. Chanina Crawford, a junior public relations major and PRSSA Kent’s diversity, equity and inclusion co-chair, was awarded the Gary Yoshimura Scholarship and the PRSA Foundation Travel Grant.
“I am so honored to have received the PRSA Travel Grant to attend the 2023 ICON conference in Nashville. It was an amazing opportunity, and I made long-lasting connections with PR professionals and connected with a PRSA advisor to guide me and give me advice regarding my future career as a public relations professional,” Crawford said.
The conference allowed students to see how lessons taught in the classroom translate into today’s industry. The public relations program focuses on students developing essential skills, such as writing, presentation, critical thinking and understanding multimedia storytelling.
“The PR program is truly unique. Each professor brings decades of industry experience to the classrooms, and they translate their wisdom into relevant lessons for whichever course they’re teaching. Each class is designed around skills and experiences that undergraduates might face in their future careers. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind education unlike any other college,” Warmbein said.
Emily Metzgar, director of the School of Media and Journalism, reflected on the hard work of students and faculty who have created such an outstanding program.
“Kent State University’s public relations program is one of the best in the country. These awards and certifications just help cement that reputation. I couldn’t be prouder of our students for their accomplishments as they represent us around the country,” Metzgar said. “And I am grateful to my faculty and colleagues who work every day to ensure that MDJ’s PR students get excellent professional training in the classroom and beyond.”
And students and graduates are grateful for the opportunities and experiences.
“When I was a senior in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a future career. Never in a million years did I think I would be developing strategic communications, social media concepts and media relations plans for industry leaders. But thanks to my education at Kent State, I wouldn’t want to have it any other way,” Warmbein said.