Newly added public relations program at SAU already impacting education paths for trio of students
Laurinburg, NC - When St. Andrews University announced the revitalized Communication major in September, it was done in response to research showing the advantages of a public relations program.
Research shows that employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow 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 by the growth of social media.
“Our students have the advantage of exploring in the liberal arts tradition while preparing for a job in the global economy,” said Charles Meadows, assistant professor of communication. “We know this major will grow as word gets out. We have the foundation established and a curriculum that will foster interest from our current and future students.”
For Federica Staton, a sophomore from Charlotte, the change came at a perfect time.
“Writing has been one of the big things for me always,” she said. “I was originally interested in journalism, but a class in public relations moved me in a new direction.”
Staton’s classroom experience moved her toward a communication major, but she considered changing to education due to the theatre classes required under the previous format.
“I didn’t want to take the theatre courses,” she said. “I was very close to declaring a major in education when I learned about the official change to a public relations emphasis. I went and declared my major immediately."
With a couple internships with the Charlotte Observer already on her résumé, Staton is familiar with the ins and outs of a newsroom. But her experience with the public relations foundation courses has guided her away from her previous goal of being a journalist.
“Our first assignment was a news release,” she said. “I thought I did badly but I got the assignment back with an A. I realized for the remaining assignments that I was really interested in it. Research and I do not get along but this research was something I enjoyed. I was really interested in all of it.”
Staton truly enjoys the advocate angle of being a public relations specialist. A forward on the St. Andrews women’s basketball team, she is looking to go into public relations in sports, working either for an organization or individual athletes. It is an aspiration shared by fellow major Maggie Goode.
“My goal is to work for the Carolina Panthers Public Relations department,” said Goode, a sophomore from Charlotte. “That would be my dream job, and I am really looking forward to starting internships over the summers to get where I want to be after I graduate.”
Goode was drawn to St. Andrews for the equestrian program, and still participates in the riding opportunities, but decided to major in communications after a class freshman year.
“I took one of Dr. Meadows’ classes and I really enjoyed it,” said Goode. “I started doing research and realized that it is what I would really like to do.”
Enjoying the classes and the subject matter also brought Caitie Robinson, a junior from Monroe, to declare a minor in Communication.
“I’ve changed my mind over and over again, but I happen to have a passion for everything communications,” said Robinson.
A Game Art and Design major, Robinson knew that the Communication minor would serve as a complimentary pursuit.
“The minor allows me to learn how to present myself in a more professional way,” said Robinson. “I can always use those skills to get a job in public relations, perhaps as a spokesperson for a large graphic or game design company.
“My passion is in front of a computer, whether that be running a group page to keep others up to date on special events or fictional characters, designing or editing web pages for better communication, or creating 3-D designs used in video games,” she added. “I believe the Communication program will strengthen my skills.”
The goals and input of the students in the program will continue to shape the program moving forward.
“We will continue to look at the needs of our students,” said Meadows. “As student interest grows, we will look into adding other 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,” said Meadows.