PEPPERDINE CONSIDERS END TO PR MAJORI am in the process of interviewing Grant Turck, the student who is leading the fight against Pepperdine, as well as the president of PRSSA, Sarah Yeaney to get the "official" PRSSA take on Pepperdine.
Pepperdine University has proposed a realignment within its Seaver College institution that would eliminate PR as a major and combine several marketing disciplines under an "integrated marketing" major through its business school.
The University, which charges about $35K a year for tuition and boarding, put together a plan to slash $1 million from the Seaver budget.
"The PR discipline is one of several which are being looked at," said Jerry Derloshon, director of news and PR for the university, who noted a handful of other programs are being looked at as part of an evaluation process. "What I think the end result should be, and must be, is a better overall academic program for the students. That could be keeping PR as a major or calling it something else like 'integrated marketing communications' with other disciplines."
Derloshon told O'Dwyer's the input of students, alumni and professionals in the field will be considered and factored in any final decision.
The Malibu, Calif., university's student body numbers just over 3,000.
"I could understand if it was a non-producing major, but PR is the 12th most popular major at the school," said Grant Turck, a junior PR major who is organizing an effort to put pressure on the school to change its plans.
Turck has fired off e-mails to PR alumni of the school, many of whom have expressed support of the program and conveyed those feelings to the school. Some have threatened to withhold contributions.
Dan Shaw, a PR alum who is now with Rogers & Assocs. in Los Angeles, noted: "Whenever I tell people about my degree, the most common response is, ‘Wow, how refreshing it is to find someone who was able to major in a field they could actually work in!' And therein lies the true value of the public relations program - it is a tangible, hands-on major that teaches very specific skills to excel in a particularindustry."
He continued: "It would be a shame to see such a valuable program disappear. Public relations is a discipline unto itself, and for far too long people have mistakenly confused it with other communications disciplines such as advertising or marketing. Please do not make the same mistake."
Derloshon added: "These kinds of inquiries make the university want to delve into questions like, 'Would an integrated marketing comms. approach be more effective and more valuable in the marketplace?'
"We are looking at ways to be more effective and the PR discipline is one of the subjects we're evaluating. It's part of the dynamics of a university, to stay relevant and serve the students better."
Derloshon stressed there is no de facto elimination of any program at this time and described the process as "an evaluation." He stressed the move is not a "knee-jerk reaction to budget cuts."
I also contacted Pepperdine University, who sent back a statement that Pepperdine is focused on providing academic excellence and academic program reviews are essential to maintaining a sharp edge. The end result, whatever the result, will be a better program and the University is examining just how to accomplish that.
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