Thursday, June 1, 2023

Record number of public relations students to graduate this spring

April 10, 2023
<p>A graduation cap and gown photographed next to a laptop on April 22, 2020.</p>

A graduation cap and gown photographed next to a laptop on April 22, 2020.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

This spring, a record number of Michigan State University students will graduate with a public relations degree.

Twenty-five students completed the public relations graduation requirements.

After the major officially began in fall of 2020, the number of students enrolled has continued to climb over the years. The number of declared public relations students has nearly doubled since spring of 2022, from 89 to 164.

“It takes a couple of years for students to meet all the various requirements of the major and to acquire the great field experience that's required,” public relations field experience coordinator Amanda Vasas said.

Vasas said a unique component to the public relations major is that there is a 250-hour experiential graduation requirement, allowing the students to put into practice what employers are looking for. 

She said public relations students have completed over 8,600 hours of field experience.

“It's still a growing major, but it's amazing to see many of our PR majors go far beyond the 250-hour requirement and get multiple internships and multiple different kinds of field experiences to really branch out and diversify what they have to offer,” Vasas said.

Some of the job titles that public relations professionals have include being an account executive at an agency, content strategist, social media manager and specialist. Many public relations graduates end up working with social media, whether that be on the west coast or in New York City.

Influencer relations are also a growing segment of the industry. This involves working and partnering with influencers and brands.

“There's a lot of power behind public relations because there's this element of persuasion and message amplification, reaching people and reaching audiences,” Vasas said.  

Public relations professor Andrew Corner said the degree involves developing digital and social media skills. 

“Our program is designed so that someone who has an interest in working in jobs that involve building and maintaining relationships with people in groups, people who have the ability to influence an organization's success and utilizing traditional and emerging digital tools can deliver that communication,” Corner said.

There are 12 required classes to complete the major and each focuses on a different aspect of public relations practice.

“The major focuses heavily on developing writing skills," Corner said. "Someone who comes into the major is gonna spend four of those classes working progressively through more advanced skills practice in writing for strategic purposes."

Public relations senior Becca Wyne, who goes by they/them pronouns, said that at MSU, they learned how to tell stories in a compelling way.

“Learning from professors in general just really empowered me to strengthen my written and verbal communication skills to ultimately enhance the relationships around me, which is PR to a definition,” Wyne said. “Just trying to create the most fulfilling relationships, that's what's empowered me to apply it to real-life projects."

Wyne is currently a student intern at Martin Waymire and they’ve been able to create a diverse marketing strategy based on what they learned from the MSU public relations department.

“To be able to have that (strategy) accepted by the leadership team and all that, I wouldn't be able to do it without my education from MSU,” Wyne said.

They said the most significant things they learned in public relations relate to language usage and the connotations behind certain words. 

“It is so essential to be accommodating and inclusive to all audiences that you're talking about,” Wyne said. “I just want to be able to reach as many people as I can in the most equitable manner.”

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