Advanced public relations class allows for growth

The Woodlands senior Sommer Stanley is on a cherry picker while taking in the views at the Waco Diesel Equipment Technology Building. Photo courtesy of Sommer Stanley

By Emily Lohec | Staff Writer

Ten years ago, Dr. Cassy Burleson, a senior lecturer for the Journalism, Public Relations and New Media department at Baylor, used her knowledge and skills to bring an advanced public relations class to fruition.

Dr. Burleson understands the demand in the workforce for those interested in the PR world and sees the potential met by students who have grown in their own communication and writing skills while participating in the class.

“The ratio of jobs in our field is three to one— three in PR to one news ed, overall,” Burleson said. “I’ve studied workforce education for decades and love helping people get jobs.”

A unique aspect about Advanced PR is the requirement that students need to complete an internship while enrolled in the course.

The Woodlands senior Sommer Stanley took Advanced PR with Burleson and found the class to be beneficial because it served as a helpful way to narrow down the job search for graduation. Stanley knew the challenges the class would present but believed the program to be one in which she would learn and grow in as her PR career began.

“A lot of schools will have you take an independent study; however, in Advanced PR, in order to get a letter grade, you have to have an internship,” Stanley said. “Therefore, you’re not just getting a grade for working a certain number of hours, but you’re graded on the work you do for your internship and the additional hours you put in the classroom as well.”

Burleson understands the rigorous workload employers often cast upon the new interns. She sees this as a way for students to become acclimated with the challenges they will face in the real world.

“I think students understand that their site’s workplace expectations are their biggest challenge,” Burleson said. “I try to help them succeed in producing products that meet professional standards, so they can succeed at their internships and exit with a portfolio evidence of their knowledge and skills.”

Burleson incorporates the internship into the course as a way to better those wanting to enter the PR world. The challenge of completing both the class and internship serves as a glimpse of the tasks a future employer could expect.

“It gives them a chance to do some adulting and allows students to see how closely their skills and knowledge match employer expectations,” Burleson said. “It’s not just a grade, but it can be a jump start on their best possible future.”

Stanley sees juggling the class and an internship as a way to leave students with a variety of work examples for future job opportunities.

“I have much better work samples because a lot of my pieces got published on the TSTC website where local news stations picked up some of my work,” Stanley said. “The internship helps me have hands-on experience in the real world and I know the class helped me perfect some writing samples PR jobs require.”

Boulder, Colo., senior Stacy Burger said that she is nervous yet excited to begin the class this semester.

“As an incoming student, I feel as though I know only the general gist right now. PR is very broad and there are a lot of elements and routes to learn from and to take within PR— it’ll take a good chunk of time to learn what each path could be,” Burger said.

Burleson offers the advice and feedback of previous classmates from semesters prior to incoming students. She believes this will provide not only confidence for students to succeed in the class, but confidence in the their own skill set as well.

“I want students to get a job that inspires them before they walk the stage at graduation. I want them to make enough money to pay back student loans and enjoy a decent standard of living,” Burleson said. “In this class, students have one foot in the classroom and one in the workplace.”

Burleson ends the class with a panel of five PR practitioners who lend last critiques to the student’s collective work throughout the semester.

“Employers aren’t just critiquing— they’re coming to hire,” Burleson said.

Burger hopes that the class will leave her well-prepared for a future career in PR.

“I hope to have a better understanding of what direction I want to take with PR,” Burger said. “There are a lot of jobs out there that revolve around PR but grasping a better understanding of what it is that PR jobs entail will help me narrow down future job opportunities I may want to pursue.”