By Megan Gallagher
KU is in the process of creating a new public relations major that’s expected to start in the fall of 2018.
The major is 99 percent finished and gathering the required staff is the last step that needs to be taken, said Joseph Harasta, a KU communication studies professor. There are not many faculty lined up for positions, so KU will be expanding for this major.
Amy O’Brien, a KU English professor, is working on the major with Harasta. She said it will include a mix of classes from the English and communications departments. The PR minor has been offered at KU ever since she was hired to teach PR in 1999, O’Brien said. The English department will be housing the new major since there will be many writing classes, she added.
O’Brien and Harasta are attempting to integrate diversity, where each student will have a course expectation to take three classes in this area along with ten other public relations courses and an internship. Students will complete a senior project where they will work with a PR firm to learn how to plan and execute things for outside clients, Harasta said.
The diversity courses will involve things like the LGBTQ community, African-American history and gender across cultures. With these courses, they expect KU students to have a leg up in the PR world since diversity is a huge part of it, O’Brien said. Also, the old writing center in Old Main will soon be turned into a PR lab that will help with websites, printing and technology all in the PR field, according to Harasta.
Harasta said the major has been in the making for the past two years. Students joining the major will receive more content in the field, get more education in general, and will be better trained in the industry than if they only had the minor.
The necessary skills and the focus will be an edge and incoming students will get “practical experience,” O’Brien said. The public relations minor is one of the larger ones on campus with 260-plus students, but it’s hard to say if many of them will switch to the major, O’Brien said. She mentioned that the major will be good because there is a large job market for public relations positions.
Over the past two years of making the major, they have talked to many professionals in public relations about what their ideal hire would know. They have researched surrounding colleges and professional guidelines to get the credentials of having the program in mind, according to O’Brien.
KU sophomore Marykate O’Brien said she is looking forward to what the new major will have to offer.
KU alum Emily Gavin said she wished she could have been in the major to better prepare her for the workplace.
“At my job, I communicate with my coworkers and possible clients about the changes in the program,” Gavin said. “So, having a background in PR could’ve helped me.”