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University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


Future-focused PR Program's Move to Business School Builds Synergy with Marketing

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (April 13, 2015) – Taking a future-focused approach that will build synergy between marketing and public relations programs and equip students with skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing professional environment, the University of Central Missouri is moving its academic public relations (PR) program to the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies. With this move, effective for fall 2015, UCM becomes the second university nationwide, and the first institution west of the Mississippi River, to house a certified PR program in an accredited business school.

The official announcement that the academic PR program is transferring from the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences to the Harmon College’s Department of Economics, Finance and Marketing was made by Deborah Curtis, provost-chief learning officer. She said this move will further nurture synergies that exist between two programs, while also giving students the business acumen they need to pursue their professional careers.

"This is not a separation from one department and a shift to another, but an act of cooperation that will serve as a model for the rest of us who seek to improve what we do for students," Curtis said in a campus announcement.

The provost’s announcement comes a semester after the university’s academic PR program celebrated its success in a rigorous one-year review process that led to Certification in Education Public Relations (CEPR) by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). While offering its quality assurance endorsement in fall 2014 — then making UCM one of only 38 institutions nationwide to achieve this prestigious designation — the CEPR accreditation site review team recommended the university consider moving the PR program to the Harmon College. Nationally, only four PR programs are housed in business colleges, and only two of them hold CEPR status. Adding prestige to this program transfer at UCM is the opportunity to be housed in a college that has longstanding accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

"I applaud the combined efforts of faculty members and administrators in both colleges who are working to make the public relations program’s transfer possible. They truly have the best interests of students in mind by addressing a call from PR industry leaders who want graduates who have more business skills," said UCM President Charles Ambrose.

A document produced on behalf of the marketing program and the Harmon College’s School of Business Administration called for collaboration between academic marketing and PR areas, noting that in the professional world the working relationships between these areas are changing. Marketing and PR are becoming more dependent on each other. This trend is evident when examining opportunities on the PRSA jobs and career website, which illustrate that marketing is becoming an increasingly important field for public relations professionals.

"This is a great opportunity for PR students to gain business experience," said Kristina Keeling, junior public relations student. "This is a very innovative program and the PR faculty want to give us the best chance when searching for jobs once we graduate. The PR field is ever-changing. More and more public relations jobs require us to have marketing skills and business knowledge. This move will give us both to go along with our PR skills. Simply put, this will make us even more competitive to prospective employers."

"It is apparent from industry trends that public relations and marketing have many commonalities. Having PR housed with marketing provides a richer opportunity to enhance both of these existing programs, leading to even greater career readiness of PR and marketing graduates," said Roger Best, dean of the Harmon College. "The synergy provided through this move will also allow us to create new programs which address both current and future needs in business and government. In the Harmon College, we have always had a keen focus on active learning and student success, and it is obvious that faculty in public relations share this same focus."

Tricia Hansen-Horn, a professor of communication who teaches public relations courses, strongly supports the PR program’s move to the business college as a way to lead students into 21st century success.

"The PR industry continues to develop and change quickly," she said. "As educators, it is our job to help students be even more competitive in the job market. That said, one of the most exciting changes is the fact that public relations professionals are increasingly recognized in industry as thought and business leaders. This move will help us position our graduates to assume those leadership roles more easily and earlier in their careers."

She added, "It is an exciting time of change and opportunity in the industry. That excitement and innovation is also in place for the UCM PR program."

Hansen-Horn said the quality, friendliness and energy of the PR program will remain the same. The physical location of the PR faculty’s offices will change, as will the location of the physical facilities and services immediately available to PR majors. Students will benefit from the new relationships they develop with traditional business majors and faculty.

Drawing from their professional experience, Harmon College alumni such as Jenni Woolsey, senior national sales representative at AMC Theaters, recognize the value of this new relationship between PR and marketing.

"Since graduating from UCM, there have been multiple occasions in my past and current marketing positions where PR experience would have been beneficial. I have worked in advertising and sales and have learned a lot just being in the workforce, but I do think that out of the marketing coursework offered PR was one thing missing in UCM’s program."