This fall, Kutztown University is looking to attract undergraduates interested in majoring in a growing field with its new bachelor of science degree in public relations.
The degree could help students transition into well-paying careers, according to the co-director of the program.
“Anyone who is in the program can go seamlessly into the workforce,” said Joseph Harasta, associate professor and co-director of the new public relations program.
As part of this program, the university is renovating a writing lab to create a public relations lab that would include an area for students to meet clients, touchscreen TVs for presentations and professional-sized printers for projects. Once it’s open, students can access the lab with a swipe of their identification card, he said.
The university’s major is in the English department and shared with the communications department, with courses offered through professional writing, communication studies, social media strategy and analytics majors.
As part of the program, the major includes a one-semester senior year internship along with professional training during the senior year, when students work with outside clients to implement a plan for their projects in the spring, Harasta said.
“The idea is that students can tailor their education,” Harasta said.
With 150 credits in the bachelor of science degree in public relations, students can focus on a variety of topics for fields that include marketing, public administration and corporate communications.
With social media being such a big part of public relations, organizations are looking for those who have the experience to enter a position with those skills, he added. Potential positions include public information director, public relations officer, social media coordinator and digital marketing and public relations consultant.
“PR is the biggest minor on campus. … There’s a lot of interest,” Harasta said.
Planning for the public relations major began about three years ago, and the university has been supportive from the start, he said.
Once the major is running for several years, the university would like to receive accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America, which is the overarching governing body of the industry, Harasta said. That designation would show employers that the instruction was of the highest level, he said.
The degree also could help students pursue graduate education in related domains.
One possible idea is to offer a certificate program for online education and, potentially, a graduate program, he added.