The Public Relations Society of America, the field’s premier professional organization, has conferred Certification in Education for Public Relations on Union University’s public relations undergraduate degree program.
Union’s program is the first in the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities and only the second in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities to receive the certification. Only 31 public relations programs around the world hold the PRSA certification.
The letter announcing the conference of CEPR said the program’s well-developed curriculum, facilities and professional affiliations for students were “particularly impressive.”
The certification process included a site visit by two members of the CEPR committee. They met with Union Provost Carla Sanderson to evaluate the university’s curriculum-creation process and its support of faculty scholarship and professional development.
“I was pleased to be able to address how vital the liberal arts core curriculum is at Union,” Sanderson said. “We talked about the importance of faculty as scholars, faculty as mentors and faculty as spiritual developers in the lives of our students. We talked about … how the faculty-student relationship is the most important thing we can foster here.”
Sanderson said the certification is an example of the university’s first core value: academic excellence.
The public relations major at Union is housed within the communication arts department. Public relations professors work and teach in Jennings Hall, where two labs allow students to practice skills necessary for a career in public relations. Professors also encourage public relations majors and minors to join Union’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter to learn about the profession and connect with the broader professional community, and Bulldog Communication Group, a student-run public relations firm that has clients in the community. The public relations program has long been accredited.
“CEPR is not accreditation but certification of our program by PRSA, which means they endorse what we’re doing,” Kathie Chute, professor of communication arts. “According to PRSA, some employers are showing preference to graduates from programs that have earned this important designation.”
Ashley Blair, assistant professor of communication arts, said the CEPR is significant because it tells future employers that the students who graduate from Union’s program have been prepared well for a job. Blair said the certification will inform employers that though it is a small program, it can be compared in quality with some of the largest schools.
“Being able to say you’re from a CEPR program on your resume provides a specific and significant correlation with PRSA,” Blair said. “Even employers who are not familiar with Union University, but are familiar with CEPR, will connect an added credibility with the applicant.”
The certification was not easy to attain. Chute and Blair spent hours last summer and fall gathering information about the program and filling out a lengthy application as the first step in the certification process.
“I would say the most difficult aspect was gathering all the data PRSA requires,” Chute said. “The certification is as much about Union University as it is our specific program, so there is a lot they want to know.”