Advertising and PR officially change departments

Emma Collins

The advertising and public relations majors have officially moved from their original home in the School of Journalism & Broadcasting to the department of communication, although a physical move has yet to happen.

Helen Sterk, head of the department of communication, said the change, which became effective July 1, involved efforts from faculty in the department of Communication and the School of Journalism & Broadcasting. The move was announced last fall, while plans for the merger continued throughout the spring semester. She said switching departments was not an easy task.

“Yes, this is going to be hard work,” Sterk said. “But the outcome is going to be more opportunity for students.”

While the advertising and public relations majors have officially switched departments, some work still remains. Sterk said the curriculum must be changed, and a committee was appointed in January to discuss those changes.

Angie Jerome, a member of the committee tasked with finalizing the curriculum, said the five-member group included representatives from the department of communication and the School of Journalism & Broadcasting. The curriculum includes decreasing the number of required hours for public relations and advertising majors. Both majors originally required 45-46 hours; however, the new advertising major requires 36 hours while the new public relations major requires 39.

Jerome said in addition to changing the curriculum for those two majors, the committee also reduced the number of required hours for the communication studies major and the corporate and organizational communications majors. Those now require 36 hours.

Patricia Witcher, an adviser for public relations majors, said the curriculum changes will make it easier for students to double major. The changes will also allow students to take more classes in other majors.

Although the committee has produced a final version of the curriculum, Sterk said it still must be approved by the department of Communication, the Potter College Curriculum Committee and WKU curriculum committee. She said she hopes the curriculum will be approved by the end of this semester.

In addition to finalizing the curriculum, Sterk said a new location must be found for the department of Communication. The department is currently housed in the Fine Arts Center, but the advertising and public relations faculty remain in Jody Richards Hall, formally known as Mass Media and Technology Hall. Sterk said she does not know where their new space will be, but she said she hopes the decision will be made in December.

Sterk said she has not heard any complaints from faculty members; however, she has heard that some students have concerns about how the changes will affect them. She said current advertising and public relations majors can choose to still follow the original requirements for the majors. If students see the new curriculum and decide they want to switch from the old curriculum, they can choose to do that as well.

Sterk said students should not let the curriculum changes concern them because the department will make sure all students are able to take the classes they need.

“We’ll make sure they get what they need and that they all graduate on time,” Sterk said. “This shouldn’t hold up anybody.”

To help ease students’ concerns, Sterk said she will be participating in an open forum with Jerome, Potter College Dean Larry Snyder and faculty from the advertising and public relations departments to discuss any concerns. The forum is open to all students and will be Wednesday, Aug. 30, from 4 to 5 p.m. in the auditorium of Mass Media and Technology Hall.

“We want to do as much as we can to reduce apprehensions,” Sterk said.

The advertising and public relations majors are not the only new majors in the department of Communication. The pop culture studies major has also moved to that department.

Sterk said previously the pop culture studies major existed without a department. As a result, it had no department head and no budget. Sterk said money is important because it allows faculty members and students to attend conferences or to travel to present research. She said the major will stay the same despite moving to a new department.

Another potential change for the department will be the addition of a new assistant professor. Sterk said the department is looking for someone to teach digital communications. She said the application ends in November, and she said she hopes to have selected the new assistant professor by March.

Sterk said the new professor will help bridge the gap between project-based learning, which is typical in advertising and public relations, and theoretical-based learning, which is used in communication classes. She said classes on digital communications will benefit all students in the communication department.

“There are some very exciting people out there who do things that I can’t even imagine,” Sterk said.

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected].