Public relations emphasis revitalizing communication major at SAU
Laurinburg, N.C. - In the fall of 2012, Dr. Charles Meadows joined the Creative and Liberal Arts department at St. Andrews University as an assistant professor of communication.
He had received his Ph.D. from the University of Alabama and was ready to take the opportunity presented to him during the interview process.
“When President Baldasare brought me in it was with the opportunity to be on the ground floor of creating a communication program,” said Meadows. “I looked at the history of the program and determined what was best suited to St. Andrews and the current job market.”
The research resulted in a drastic change to the program. Previously grouped among the majors in visual and performing arts, Meadows and Department Chair Dr. David Herr were able to provide the justification to create a new major, Communication with a concentration in Public Relations.
"The Department of Liberal and Creative Arts is excited to redevelop the Communication major for the twenty-first century," said Dr. David Herr, department chair and associate professor of History. "Students will have the opportunity to gain practical understanding of a dynamic field.
The program is designed to prepare students to serve as public relations managers and public relations specialists in for-profit and non-profit organizations.
“We have taken one of the computer labs and refurbished it key software to allow for our students to gain skills needed to compete in the public relations field,” said Herr.
Among the software is the Adobe Creative Suite, one of the top design and layout systems available. The courses will also cover technology advances and social media, subjects Meadows will be covering at the 99th National Communication Association Conference in Washington, D.C., this November.
“This is one of the top conferences in the field of communication and I will be presenting two of my research papers,” Meadows said.
The first, “The Future of Internet-Related Research in Health Communication Scholarship,” will be featured as one of the top four papers in the communication and Future Division. The second paper is “How Dialogic Theory is Used in Social Media: An Analysis of State Health Departments’ Facebook Pages.”
Having Meadows present at this conference is just another asset to the program, according to Herr.
“Dr. Meadows brings creative new ideas to the program and our campus,” Herr said. “Combined with exposure to St. Andrews' other excellent liberal arts and sciences, new communications majors and minors will have many exciting opportunities available upon graduation."
Research shows that employment of public relations specialists is expected to grown 23 percent from 2010 to 2020, with that growth driven by the need for organizations to maintain their public image in a high-information age and with the growth of social media.
“Our students have the advantage of being able to explore in the liberal arts tradition while also adapting to the current world,” said Meadows. “They will be able to apply the skills from public relations to psychology or business or any other area of interest.”
While the program was only announced this fall, six students have already gone through the process of declaring the major.
“We know this major will grow as word gets out,” said Meadows. “We have the foundation established and a curriculum that will bring additional interest from among our current and future students.”
Meadows and Herr are not done with changes to the Communication area.
“We are continuing to look at the research,” said Meadows. “As the student interest expands, we will look to expand into additional areas of concentration.”
The current subject areas being explored are communications studies and telecommunications.
“All of our decisions will be based on strategies that increase enrollment, strengthen ties in our community and benefit the university as a whole,” said Meadows.