As many of you may know, for the past 12 years, I have been teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. Every year, I look forward to this time. I’m always curious to meet my new crop of students, hear what questions they will ask and discover what topics will pique their interest. As we kick-off a new year, I want to invite all of you along on this journey with a new blog series from myself, ‘Cuse Chronicles by a CEO, in which I’ll explore my experiences teaching at Syracuse this semester.
For the past four years, I’ve been teaching a capstone course to two sets of 20 graduating seniors with PR majors. This capstone course serves many purposes for students including helping them understand the business environment in which public relations operates and identifying how PR can add value to the organization.
As we are all well aware, PR is a dynamic industry. No two days are the same; no two clients are the same. So ever since I started teaching this capstone course, I’ve made it a personal goal to thoroughly update the course each year. I work closely with Adam Novak, my TA and fellow PAN staffer, to pick apart the previous year’s curriculum and really dig into what has changed about the PR industry since we last set foot on the SU campus.
This year, we’re not only changing the curriculum – we’re changing the way we assign our work. Looking at our syllabus for this year, we realized that one of our major written assignments was stale and out of date. Traditionally, this assignment had functioned like a classic book report –the one that students have done dozens of times, where they read a management book, write a book report and present the book to the class. The more we looked at this assignment, the more we realized that it did not fit the objectives of the course.
The change to this year’s written assignment stemmed from one main fact – PR is about engaging an audience, both in person and in writing. It’s not about writing a formal report and lecturing to a room of 20 people.
So we’ve done away with the old-fashion book report. In its place, students must now complete a writing assignment that mirrors a writing assignment they would be assigned in the PR world. For example, they have the option of drafting a book review, similar to something you’d find in the New York Times Book Review section. Or, they can write a press release announcing the release of the book. Or they can create an Infographic or Video about the book. Think of is as CONTENT for 2015. A writing assignments they may face in the real world (three months away…).
We’ve also done away with the formal in-class presentation. Instead of having students prepare a PowerPoint presentation and present to their fellow students, they will be required to lead the class in a 20-minute discussion regarding a key theme in the book. Students will be responsible for developing questions and a theme, which they will work with Adam on prior to their presentation. The goal here is to get students thinking about how to create an engaging dialogue around a specific issue. A successful presentation will result how well you both inform students of the book’s teachings, while getting critically think and discuss the book’s theme.
Tomorrow, I’ll embark on the teaching journey once more and I can’t wait to see what the semester holds. Check back every week for an inside look at what’s going on inside the classroom as I chronicle my 15-week semester thru my eyes. I think you’ll find it interesting to hear what tomorrow’s leaders are thinking about the future.