Course Descriptions

Public relations is a sequential, skills-building major. In each successive course, theory is balanced with practice, and the students' understanding of both are evaluated through quizzes, exams, projects, written and oral assignments, and group activities. A detailed description of the major course sequence appears at the end of this document.

Portfolio Review:
Public relations students, during their four-year program, establish a cumulative portfolio that may contain the following material:

  • Course assignments and projects
  • Newspaper articles
  • Internship materials
  • Experiential Studies projects
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • An annual personal statement that evaluates or comments upon the individual student?s own perception of his or her strengths and weaknesses as a public relations major and as a student in general. This statement should also define and refine the student?s career goals.
  • This portfolio is used in student conferences and advising. Students present their portfolios during the first week of Capstone in a mock job interview scenario. The students may edit and refine their portfolios for their job search.

Field experience is a course requirement within the public relations curriculum. Students are expected to develop their own opportunities for off-campus, public relations-related experience. They are expected to keep a journal of their job-related activities, examples of any public relations materials they develop (brochures, newsletters, press releases, proposals, etc.), and a write a self-assessment paper that explores the interrelationship between intra and extramural experiences. In addition to these assessment tools, we use the employers? report in the final assessment for the internship experience.

The capstone is a one-semester, case-study approach in which the students are expected to demonstrate the ability to apply the principles and practices of public relations to the problems and opportunities presented by our emerging global society. In dealing with each case study, students must use knowledge and skills from the previous courses in the major as well as from their liberal studies background.

For the past five years, we have sent out annual surveys to our recent graduates requesting career information and measuring attitudes toward our program and its impact on their careers. We have reported this information to Career Planning and Placement. This year we plan to survey students who have been employed for five years to see whether the combination of their liberal arts background and public relations education has facilitated their advancement in their profession. We use this information to adjust our core curriculum to meet the changing needs of our students, and we rely on these surveys to provide up-to-date information about future job possibilities.

As members of this national, professional organization, we adhere to its principles and guidelines for undergraduate study. We have submitted our entire program for PRSA assessment and accreditation. Pending final Board action, this will allow us to establish a Westminster College Chapter, PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America). Our students will be able to network with other students and public relations professionals at the national level. Many employers hire only PRSSA members.

Public Relations Major Course Sequence and Descriptions:
All public relations majors must complete 40 semester hours as follows:

First Year:
PR 101 - Principles, Practices and Theory of Public Relations

Sophomore Year:
WRI 201 - Journalism I
WRI 202 - Journalism II
PR 202 - Advertising and PR
PR 302 - PR Research

Junior Year:
PR 401 - PR Writing
PR 402 - PR and the Media

Senior Year:
PR 501 - Experiential Studies
PR 601 - PR Capstone

PR 101 - Principles, Practices and Theory of Public Relations:
This course is designed as an overview of the history, ethics, and practice areas of public relations. It is also the prerequisite for all other public relations courses. Material covered includes public relations history, ethics and professionalism, departments and agencies, process, public opinion and persuasion, audience segmentation, and law. Students leaving PR 101 should be familiar with the various areas of professional practice: employee relations, community relations, financial relations, crisis management, issues management, environmental relations, global relations, and entertainment/sports/travel relations.

Journalism I:
Journalism I introduces students to basic hard news reporting and writing in a variety of newspaper story formats. The focus is on developing journalistic style and news judgment. The course also includes an introduction to different kinds of stories found in newspapers, as well as to press law, ethics, and broadcast news. All students submit a number of stories to the campus student newspaper, The Holcad, for print consideration and spend a specified amount of time working with the Holcad staff learning the principles and practices of putting together a newspaper. Journalism I/Lab is the prerequisite for Journalism II/Lab.

Journalism II:
Journalism II covers advanced news and feature writing as a follow up to Journalism I. It also provides a comprehensive look at community journalism, during which students provide an in-depth analysis of six area newspapers as a final project. The assignments take students beyond the inverted pyramid. The focus is on polishing print and broadcast news writing style and on gaining an appreciation of how more than 85 percent of the country?s journalists do their jobs. All students submit a number of stories to the campus student newspaper and spend a significant amount of time working with the Holcad staff on putting the paper together. This course also includes a closer study of press law and responsibilities.

Advertising and PR:
This course is designed as an integrated approach to communications, focusing on the interrelationship between public relations and advertising. Students study the history and current practices of advertising, including print and broadcast media, direct-response advertising, directory advertising, promotions, campaign development, evaluative research, business-to-business advertising, regulatory environment, and global advertising. Independently, students analyze an advertising campaign, and in groups they develop an advertising campaign for an actual client.

PR Research:
This course is designed to prepare students for the first step in any public relations program or campaign: research. Students learn to use the three basic types of research methodology--archival, descriptive, and experimental?for campaign planning, implementation, and evaluation. Students use theory and practice to design a complete, research-based campaign for an actual client.

PR Writing:
This course focuses on one of the most important skills a public relations practitioner must have: writing. Students produce many forms of public relations writing, including press releases, mission statements, brochures, newsletters, annual reports, television and radio writing, speeches, and feature stories. In addition, students gain experience in graphic and visual design.

PR and the Media:
Students will study the history of and the relationship between public relations and the media environment. The course stresses a comprehensive knowledge of public relations strategies and tactics; a thorough understanding of various media outlets; an awareness of local, regional, national, and international affairs; and a grasp of communications technology. In addition, the course emphasizes ethics, careful research, analysis, and meticulous planning and implementation in an effort to avoid costly, damaging, highly visible, and virtually irrevocable mistakes when interacting with the press. The focus is on building good working relationships with the media. Guest speakers representing the various media visit the class, often moderating role-play scenarios that the students enact.

Experiential Studies
This requirement will involve both the simulation and practice of public relations. In the structure of a nonprofit company, students will attract, consult with, execute plans for, and service actual public relations clients. The simulations of the corporate structure will make many of the techniques of management clearer to the students and their work will provide them with concrete portfolio examples.

PR Internship:
The internship is a required course in the public relations curriculum. The internship is structured as a three-way agreement among the student, the faculty member, and the on-the-job supervisor. Internship experiences vary, but most provide the student with the opportunity to make solid connections between classroom theory and the world of work.

PR Capstone:
The capstone looks at topics, issues, case studies, and campaign strategies relevant to the field of public relations. Particular attention is given to strategic planning and implementation as they pertain to public relations administration. The general intent here is to place the student in a managerial, decision-making role in which the primary requirement is to think in terms of planning, program-execution, and program consequences. This course requires a synthesis of all of the theories and skills developed throughout the public relations core curriculum. The skills are measured through a case study approach. Students are expected to read and outline the cases for each topic. They are then expected to discuss them in class with no book and minimal notes. Each class session is an examination. Students also bring their portfolios to a scheduled interview with the instructor to demonstrate their understanding of public relations and discuss their plans for the future. Finally, students work in groups on a major public relations project that culminates in a formal written report and a public presentation. The project should demonstrate the students practical knowledge of public relations theories and skills.