NEW YORK: Already home to prestigious graduate schools of journalism and business administration, Columbia University will soon school would-be PR pros through a new program in strategic communications being launched this fall by its department of continuing education.Though currently designed as a nine-part certificate course, plans are afoot to secure degree status for the curriculum, which has been in the making for two years.
"We should all rejoice,
said Don Wright, a communications professor at the University of South Alabama, and a board member of the Arthur W.
Page Society. "It appears that the groundwork is in place to have a master's program in communications taught at an Ivy League university."
While students will be able to enroll in courses piecemeal, those seeking to earn a certificate will start in the same introductory class: Strategic Communications in the 21st Century, to be taught this fall by Gary Zarr, SVP of communications at the American Museum of Natural History.
Other level-one topics will include marketing research, writing for - and working with - the media, communicating in the digital age, and developing creative communications.
After tackling those subjects, students will be introduced to both integrated and global communications, then move on to a capstone course entitled Becoming a Communications Leader.
Trudi Baldwin, director of communications and student recruitment for the department of continuing education, consulted close to 100 PR experts while helping to put the program together. She stressed that its syllabuses will include an equal amount of theory and practice.
"Our mission is to go beyond tactics to equip people with a deep array of knowledge on the whole communications sphere,
she said. "We want to graduate students who see the big picture, so that they can assume equal roles with their organizations' finance, legal, and human resources executives."
"I approached this with a modicum of skepticism,
added dean of continuing education Frank Wolf. "I wondered if there was enough there to warrant a full Columbia degree program. To my delight, we've come up with a serious curriculum that has very little fluff."
Once fall classes have been filled, the next challenge, said Baldwin, will be proving the courses themselves worthy of positive publicity.
"It's got to be a great program,
she said. "People have to go away talking about it."