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The Communicator


Ad/PR program a finalist as Outstanding Education Program

Members of the COMM 473 seated togehter
Students in the capstone COMM 473 course guided Penn State's entry in the contest.

The advertising/public relations program at Penn State has been selected as one of five national finalists for the designation of Outstanding Education Program by PRWeek.

Penn State’s entry in the annual contest was its first-ever and was entirely student-driven.

Advertising/public relations majors in a capstone public relations course put together the extensive nomination packet, which included an overview of the program as well as interactions with alumni and industry professionals. The real-life project provided students with an educational experience and a better understanding of both the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and Penn State.

“We were able to hone in on specific stories of students, which might be different from our own, and find similarities as we told the story of the advertising/public relations program,” senior Connor Pardoe said. “It was interesting to see that no matter what someone was doing, the Bellisario College was helping them get to their next step. And it was interesting to learn about more of the resources available to students and all the alumni who are making an impact in the industry.” Penn State was shortlisted as a finalist after all entries were discussed, reviewed and scored by a panel of 87 elite judges.

Faculty member Tara Wyckoff, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Advertising/Public Relations, initiated the idea and students in COMM 473 Public Relations Campaigns embraced the real-world opportunity.

“This project challenged the students in all the right ways. The deadline for the submission was Sept. 30 — just five weeks into the semester. They needed to divide work across a 16-person class and share research and insights quickly and come to consensus on critical pieces like the strategy and messaging before they could move on,” Wyckoff said. “The entire process was representative of how this type of work takes place in the industry, and the students did a great job applying their learned public relations skills, as well as the soft skills required of working on collaborative, client-facing work. I am so proud of their work as a team.”

Administrators and staff, along with alumni in the professions, provided supports and information. Tom Resau, senior vice president of W2 Communications who serves on the Advertising/Public Relations Alumni Network Board, was an important contributor and helped facilitate the assistance of other alumni.

The award submission represented a thorough overview of advertising/public relations offerings on campus as well as their impact far beyond campus — all reflecting the quality of the program, which is the largest undergraduate major in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and one of the 15 biggest at Penn State.

“We’re excited — but not surprised — that we were designated a finalist for this award. Our faculty, our students and our alumni network place us among the very best programs in the nation,” Dean Marie Hardin said. “But it’s great to have that validation after the student put the materials together for this competition.”

Other finalists are: Boston University College of Communication, NYU School of Professional Studies, Syracuse University/Newhouse and the University of Alabama.