The Department of Communication Studies will offer public relations as a major for undergraduate students starting fall 2019.
The public relations major is designed to aid “successful careers and leadership in various areas of this rapidly expanding field,” according to the college’s website. The curriculum will consist of 44 credits in the major, five core courses, and six related elective courses. The curriculum allows students to personalize their classes to their interests by choosing from 16 PR courses to fulfill 24 credits.
Gregory Payne, chair of the Department of Communication Studies, said the major has been in the works for years.
“If you look at the history of public relations at Emerson College, it’s always been a piece of what we’ve offered,” Payne said.
The college currently offers PR as a minor and graduate program. Although students cannot officially change their major to PR until fall 2019, they can begin taking courses on track with the PR undergraduate major next semester.
“Previously a PR minor was the closest thing you could get to majoring in PR. Since people have heard that they can get a PR major, we’ve had people switching,” Payne said.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Bryson is changing her major from journalism to PR in fall 2019, but will begin taking introductory level PR courses in spring 2019.
Bryson said being involved in issues she cares about motivated her to change her major.
“I specifically want to go into nonprofit PR representation because I want to be a part of things that make me feel like I’m making a difference,” Bryson said.
Bryson said she does not have a frame of reference to predict what joining the major will be like because it is new.
“I don’t know how the major will span out over time because it’s never happened before,” Bryson said. “But it’s also exciting to be able to say I’m one of the first people in this major.”
Professor David Gerzof Richard, founder and CEO of BIGfish PR agency, teaches several PR courses at the college, such as Guerilla PR and Sports PR.
Richard said the PR professors worked collaboratively over the past year to design the PR program.
“All the professors that teach PR sat down with a critical eye, looking at all the skill sets and background that we would want to have our students exposed to coming through the program,” Richard said. “When those students hit the real world, they will have the experience and the knowledge to be able to navigate PR.”
Professor Maria Scott, who teaches Introduction to Public Relations and Sports PR, is working this year to modify the curriculum for PR from a minor and graduate program to an undergraduate program. Scott said she is focused on teaching students the elements of PR that they will need in future careers.
“The core of PR is strategy, writing, research and it’s putting those skills together to work with a client. That’s the core of what we’re going to be teaching them,” Scott said.
Scott said she compared courses offered at Emerson to the curricula of other colleges while developing the curriculum.
“Emerson students are special and we take that into account,” Scott said. “We have to look at what [other universities] are teaching because we have to understand the scope of what everyone else is learning. Realistically, those students are competing for jobs against our students.”
Richard said he is optimistic that in a few years, PR could be one of the top majors the college offers.
“I’m so excited to see what [the PR program] looks like four years from now. I would not be surprised if in a few years that Emerson has the preeminent PR program in Boston,” Richard said.
Express editor Chris Van Buskirk did not edit this article due to a conflict of interest.