Why is Advertising/PR in the School of Communications at Grand Valley?
While some colleges around the country locate advertising and PR in a Journalism Department or a College of Business, in fact the majority of advertising and public relations programs that are complete majors are located in a communication department or school. At GVSU, the Ad/PR major is appropriately located in a School of Communications along with seven other majors: Broadcasting, Communication Studies, Film/Video Production, Health Communication, Journalism, Photography, and Theatre.
Where a program is placed affects how it is taught. With the Ad/PR major in the School of Communications, the emphasis is on communications. Some might argue that people working in advertising and public relations need to have a good understanding of business and thus the major should be part of a college of business. However, many advertising and public relations professionals—including our graduates--do NOT work in businesses or exclusively with business clients. Many work in the non-profit or government sectors. For such students, additional courses in public administration or political science would make more sense, and placing public relations in a business school would in fact limit instruction to a marketing focus. Therefore, we ground our students broadly in advertising and public relations from a communications basis, and encourage them to minor or take electives in business, political science or whatever courses best suit their specific career goals.
Why Integrate Advertising and PR into One Major?
There are a variety of ways that colleges and universities structure their advertising and public relations programs. Of the 185 colleges represented in the 2008 “Where Shall I Go to Study Advertising and Public Relations” brochure, 40 have programs that integrate Advertising/Public Relations. Of those 40, 12 offer a full Advertising/Public Relations major. Others have Advertising/Public Relations as a sequence or emphasis or track as part of a more general communications or other major. Still other schools have a separate advertising major and public relations major.
Some educators are opposed to blending advertising, public relations and marketing programs because of a fear of “encroachment,” in which other disciplines change the nature and focus of what they are trying to teach. The alternate view is that integrated marketing communications (IMC) or integrated communications (IC) is a reality in the workplace and an integrated program better prepares students for their careers. 
At GVSU, we share both views. In our Advertising/Public Relations major, the majority of the courses the students take are the same. But they emphasize either advertising or public relations by taking a unique set of three courses. In this way they can emphasize one discipline but understand the other well enough to perform related skills or work with colleagues in an integrated communication context in their careers.
Do You Emphasize Theory or Practical Experience?
The School of Communications at GVSU stresses the integration of liberal and professional education as part of its mission for all of its majors, including Advertising/Public Relations. This integration of theoretical and practical learning experiences is important to prepare students not only with technical communication skills, but also with the ability to engage in critical thinking and to understand that their role as a professional is to contribute positively to the well-being of society. Also, we affirm that "nothing is as practical as a good theory" in the sense that theories explain and predict attitudes and behavior on the basis of generalized empirical study. Understanding theory gives experience legs.
The Advertising/Public Relations major achieves this integration in two ways. One, our faculty includes tenure-track professors who have professional experience in advertising and public relations as well as doctoral degrees. This enables them to teach from a broad theoretical and empirical perspective as well as provide the validity that comes from practice. A variety of visiting, affiliate and adjunct professors enhance the program with their varied professional experiences in different aspects of advertising and public relations work.
But we also believe, to paraphrase Sophocles, "to DO is to learn." So, the Advertising/Public Relations major gives students hands-on learning. In addition to a required internship for all students, four of our courses involve students completing projects for clients in the community. This is consistent with programs across the country, although many only engage students with real clients in the campaigns course.
What is The Curriculum?
The specific courses Advertising/Public Relations majors take are consistent with what is expected by professionals and advised by educators. In fact, the GVSU Advertising/Public Relations major curriculum reflects the recommendations in the 2006 Report of the Commission on Public Relations Education.
Our curriculum is as follows:
School of Communication Core Courses (9 credits)
COM 101—Concepts of Communication
COM 295—Theories of Communication
Plus one of the following:
Advertising/Public Relations Major Core (36 credits)
CAP 105—Technology in Advertising and PR
CAP 115—Advertising/PR Research
CJR 256—Newsreporting I
CAP 210—Fundamentals of Advertising
*CAP 220—Fundamentals of Public Relations
PHI 325—Ethics in the Professions
*CAP 400—Advertising/PR Campaigns
Ad Emphasis must take: PR Emphasis must take:
CAP 310—Advertising Management Cases CAP 320—PR Management Cases
CAP 315—Advertising Copywriting *CAP 321—Media Relations Writing
CAP 413—Media Planning *CAP 423—Corporate Communications
COM 495—Issues in Communication
Electives (6 credits 200 level or above)
* = coursework involves work on project for real client.
Many professionals ask us if we have a course in a specific subject. We keep up with changes in the field by offering “special topics” courses and/or by incorporating social media, design, promotions, branding etc. into the pedagogy and lesson plans of the required courses.
 According to “Where Shall I Go to Study Advertising and Public Relations?”, a brochure/directory of U.S. programs edited and updated each year by Billy Ross, Ph.D., of Louisiana State University and Jef I. Richards, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin
 Larsen, Phullis V. & Len-Rios, Maria E. (2006). “Integration of Advertising and Public Relations Curricula: A 2005 Status Report of Educator Perceptions.” Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. 61(1) pp. 33-47.
 Benigni, Vince, Cheng, I-Hui, and Cameron, Glen T. (2004). “The Role of Clients in the Public Relations Campaigns Course.” Journalism & Mass Communications Educator. 59(3) pp.259-277.